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How High Intensity Training can reduce your risk of diabetes in just 3 minutes a week



Around 280 Australians are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes every day. This number is estimated to reach a total of 3.3 million by 2031. In an age where lifestyle related diseases are becoming more prevalent by the day, a team of international scientists are looking for new effective ways for people to exercise and see real benefits. In the 2012 BBC documentary’s The Truth About Exercise, Dr Michael Mosley, Television Presenter and Physician, and Professor James Timmons, University of Birmingham, examine the positive effects of High Intensity Training’s on Insulin Resistance, and demonstrated if you exercise at a high intensity for short bursts you stand a good chance of fighting insulin related diseases. 

What is Insulin Resistance?

People with Insulin Resistance, for example, type 2 diabetics, don’t convert glucose into energy effectively. Our glucose or blood sugar levels are constantly maintained by the body to indicate levels of insulin to be released. When there is constantly too much glucose in our body, our cells become desensitised. The body increases the amount of insulin it releases while becoming less effective at converting glucose into energy; resulting in heightened blood sugar levels. People with Insulin Resistance are at risk of a variety of lifestyle diseases including; diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, obesity, high cholesterol, breast cancer, and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).

The Study

In The Truth About Exercise, Dr Michael Mosley examines High Intensity Training (HIT) and demonstrates the enormous effect it has on our Insulin Resistance function. At the beginning of the study, Mosley had his blood glucose response measured, by consuming a sugar drink and then having his blood taken over the next several hours to report how his insulin was administered.  Mosley was only just ranked within the healthy range for his Insulin Resistance response. He was then asked to use very small amounts of High Intensity Training to improve his body’s Insulin Resistance. So small in fact, all that was asked was to do  3 x 20 seconds sprints on a stationary bike, 3 times a week; totaling 3 minutes of High Intensity Training a week. Mosley did this for 4 weeks before being tested in exactly the same fashion again. The results were remarkable. Mosley experienced a 23% Insulin Resistance improvement from only 12 minutes of exercise. The results showed just how much more effective his body was at converting glucose into energy in addition to a decrease in the amount of insulin needed to do this. 

To see the full documentary click here.

Why HIT works?

So how does so little exercise produce such astounding results? 

The key seems to be the intensity. It certainly can’t be put down to a lifestyle full of activity. “It is the intensity that counts, breaking down the stored glycogen in muscles so much more effectively than moderate exercise like jogging.” said Dr Mosley. The team of scientists continue to conduct research on the benefits of both High Intensity Training and High Intensity Interval Training. 

Further Research

Professor Timmon’s research in this area is only part of a €6 million Metapredict project. The objective of Metapredict is to discover if individualised lifestyle strategies can be developed to fight or prevent metabolic diseases such as obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular problems. The projects identifies High Intensity Training and High Intensity Interval Training as key research areas to finding attainable solutions for the general public.