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Can Burst Training Help Indivdiuals With Type II Diabetes Improve Blood Glucose Control?

For years physicians and health experts have recommended an exercise routine with low-moderate intensity physical activity for individuals with type II diabetes or who were pre-diabetic.

The norm would be to recommend low intensity aerobic activity like walking and light resistance training. Truth be told, until recently there really has been that many high quality studies comparing the intensity of exercise and how it relates to blood glucose control.

With the release of several studies over the past few years, health experts are beginning to adjust their recommendations to include more moderate to “vigorous” physical activity. In 2011, the American College of Sports Medicine revised their previous recommendations issued in 2000 on “Exercise and Type 2 Diabetes.” Here’s a quick summary of their new guidelines.

“For individuals who already have Type II diabetes, the new guidelines include at least 150 minutes per week of moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise spread out at least 3 days during the week with no more than 2 consecutive days between bouts.”

The panel also recommended that resistance training be done at least twice per week, ideally three times per week, on nonconsecutive day. They advised people who were just beginning a weight training program to be supervised by a qualified fitness trainer to ensure optimal benefits to blood glucose control, blood pressure, and to minimize cardiovascular risk.

Here’s what’s revealing about the new guidelines. There’s a shift moving towards the acceptance of more vigorous forms of exercise when under the supervision of a qualified fitness professional.

I think a lot of the previous recommendations were overly conservative due to the fact that many diabetics have limited capacity for higher-intensity exercise due to weight, orthopedic, and cardiovascular issues. While these are all valid concerns, it doesn’t mean that diabetics can’t benefit from carefully planned progression that moves from lower-intensity activity to short bouts of higher-intensity activity.

This is something I’ve seen with numerous clients at my Shaping Concepts Personal Training Studios. We regularly work with middle-age adults who are either pre-diabetic or suffering from type II diabetes. The protocol for exercise typically involves starting with low-moderate intensity aerobic exercise and resistance training then progressing to burst training type routines.

Obviously, this is done on an individual basis depending on the client’s ability to safely proceed to higher intensity type routines. The objective whenever possible however is to build conditioning to allow the introduction of short-duration, high intensity, burst training exercise.

An example of burst training would be completing body weight or weighted resistance exercises in short bursts of all-out effort followed by brief recovery periods. Think along the lines of 20-30 seconds of vigorous effort followed by a short rest period then repeating. This is in stark contrast to typically health club type workouts where several sets of one exercise are completed with longer periods of rest.

Experience has shown that significant improvements in blood glucose control and lowering of blood pressure are seen when burst training type routines are introduced. Basically, the higher-intensity, short duration bursts of all-out effort improved markers much faster than just using low-moderate intensity aerobic activity alone.

Let me be clear on this however, this isn’t to say there’s not benefit in completing longer-duration and lower intensity aerobic exercise.

I’ve found the best results are achieved when a combination of BOTH types of exercise are included in the individual’s exercise routine.

Variety with the intensity and energy systems used with different types of exercise seems to be the key. The idea however is that individuals with type II diabetes or those who are at risk for becoming diabetic, can greatly benefit from including burst training in their fitness routines. They don’t have to just walk and do very light resistance training.

When weight or orthopedic issues limit the person’s ability to run, jump, or do exercises that involve high amounts of joint compression, alternative exercises can be used. Rowing, swimming, elliptical trainers, and doing exercises like kettlebell swings are prime examples. Once again this is where having the guidance and supervision of a qualified personal trainer or fitness coach can be very helpful.

Alright, let’s look at what some of the research shows in regards to the benefits of burst training and how it relates to improvements in blood glucose control. Dr. Martin Gibala is one of the foremost experts on burst and HIIT (high intensity interval training). He has pioneered a large majority of the peer reviewed studies that showed the effectiveness of these types of routines.

For our discussion today we’ll be looking at study that was conducted just last year. Click the following link to read more on the study along with discussion on the subject by Dr. John Berardi of Precision Nutrition.

Little JP, Gillen JB, Percival ME, Safdar A, Tarnopolsky MA, Punthakee Z, Jung ME, Gibala MJ. Low-volume high-intensity interval training reduces hyperglycemia and increases muscle mitochondrial capacity in patients with type 2 diabetes. J Appl Physiol. 2011 Dec;111(6):1554-60.

What makes this particular study interesting is the test subjects that were used. You see in most studies involving burst or HIIT training, already lean and healthy adults in their twenties are frequently used. In this study the researchers used type 2 diabetics who were obese and on average 61 years old.

Here’s how the study went down. For two weeks the test subjects did HIIT three times per week on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Each HITT session involved the following.

- 3 minutes of warm-up
- 10 all out bursts or sprints on a stationary bike, alternated with 60 seconds of recovery
- 2 minutes of cool down

Total time per workout session: 25 minutes, with 20 of those minutes spent doing the HIIT protocol.

Their results showed that blood glucose levels improved for over 24 hours after each workout. And this was with just a mere two weeks of doing the HIIT routines. If you look at the actual time spent exercising over 6 HIIT sessions it’s only 2 hours!

This is certainly not to say that burst training is a magic bullet for reversing insulin resistance or improving blood glucose control. What it does show however is that it can certainly provide benefits.

Burst training is not a quick fix but when combined with dietary changes and longer-duration aerobic exercise the results are very positive. There’s little question in my mind regarding the benefits of burst training for middle age adults. It all goes back to the hormonal responses that come from this type of training.

As you get older hormonal balances obviously shift as a natural part of aging. The degree in which the endocrine system gets out of balance is largely influenced by dietary and lifestyle habits. Following a poor diet, not exercising, failing to manage stress, etc, all speed up the process in which insulin resistance, low testosterone, and other imbalances are seen.

These things need not be an accepted result of getting older. Yes, middle-age adults are going to have to change their dietary and exercise habits from what they did when they were younger. Going on a calorie restrictive diet and doing a bunch of cardio won’t cut it anymore. It all goes back to the hormonal shifts.

However, I’ve seen very impressive results from my Charleston personal training clients when a Primal Blueprint or other natural, whole food diet is followed in conjunction with an exercise routine that includes burst training and HIIT type routines.

Thirty minutes of burst training done three times per week combined with several bouts of longer duration, lower intensity aerobic exercise can produce significant changes. Not only is it effective for improving health markers but it’s also very conducive for changing body composition.

One final word of caution on burst training and HIIT routines. For these strategies to be effective, the intensity of the of the short-bursts of all-out effort is going to be high. Proper progression is essential before attempting to do higher intensity exercise. Jumping into high intensity exercise without proper preliminary conditioning can open the door to cardiovascular risk factors and injury.

In some cases where adrenal issues are present, the high intensity nature of burst training may have a counterproductive effect on blood glucose control. The intensity and program design will need to be adjusted in these instances. Once again I believe it’s imperative you work with a physician and a qualified fitness professional who are on the same page with your exercise prescription.

Never-the-less, the burst training methods can be extremely effective in the majority of cases when appropriate exercise program design is used. Take a look at some of the success stories you’ll find on this website. You’ll see testimonials and reviews from middle age clients who successfully used burst training and Primal Blueprint type diet strategies to improve their health and change their shape.

I’m in the process of compiling an aggregate of data to show how our intervention strategies impacted not only body composition but also blood pressure, blood glucose, and other markers of health. This will transcend the results of our programs from testimonials to concrete data taken from a large population.

If you’re a middle age adult living in the Charleston, SC area who would like to consider coaching and instruction on a fitness and lifestyle change program, I’m always happy to help. You can fill out the web-form on this page for a free no-obligations consultation and personal training trail.

If you have any questions on burst training and HIIT routines feel free to hit me up anytime.

Shane Doll is a certified personal trainer, fat loss expert, speaker, and founder of Shaping Concepts Fitness Training Studios. If you’re looking for a personal trainer in Charleston, you can receive a no-obligations personal training trial and consultation without risking a dime. Over 1000 Charleston area residents have transformed their bodies following our unique burst training workouts and simplified nutrition programs. Experience the Shaping Concepts difference today.

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Category: Burst Training.