HIIT Improves Glucose Metabolism in Diabetics

After just a two-week training period, the glucose uptake in thigh muscles returned to a normal level.

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is the darling of the fitness community. Hundreds of studies have proven its effectiveness at increasing cardiovascular endurance, enhancing overall fitness, improving explosive strength, and burning fat. Plus, the fact that you can get an amazing workout in 5-15 minutes makes it a hugely popular choice among the very busy.

Here’s another reason to love HIIT: it can fight diabetes.

A study from the University of Turku in Finland examined the effects of HIIT workouts on insulin sensitivity. The researchers gathered men in their 40s and 50s and put them through two workouts: high-intensity training or more moderate traditional training.

They then gathered another group of men, these either diabetic or prediabetic (blood sugar high but not quite at the level of Type 2 Diabetes), and put them through the same workouts.

At the end of just two weeks of high-intensity training, the blood sugar levels of the diabetic and prediabetic men had reached the levels of the control group (healthy men with regular blood sugar levels).

Both insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism improved significantly after just six HIIT sessions.

To be clear: the group that underwent regular training saw a significant reduction in their blood glucose levels, just like the HIIT group. However, their improvements were just half that of the HIIT group.

The research results, therefore, highlight the beneficial effects of exercise on glucose metabolism especially in diabetics and in those who suffer from disturbances in the glucose metabolism.

According to previous research, exercise lowers blood sugar as much as diabetes medication. Therefore, exercise is an essential part of treating and preventing diabetes.

Although HIIT did provide better results, it’s particularly good news that when it comes to glucose metabolism and endurance it does not seem to matter whether the exercise takes place over a longer period of time as moderate training or over a short period as HIIT.

Everyone can choose the type of training that suits them best. In general, you can achieve the best results for your body by using both training methods.

However, the researchers advise that diabetics should consult their doctor before starting a new exercise routine. For example, if the amount of exercise increases significantly, it might be necessary to check diabetes medication.


1.Tanja J. Sjöros, Marja A. Heiskanen, Kumail K. Motiani, Eliisa Löyttyniemi, Jari-Joonas Eskelinen, Kirsi A. Virtanen, Nina J. Savisto, Olof Solin, Jarna C. Hannukainen, Kari K. Kalliokoski. “Increased insulin-stimulated glucose uptake in both leg and arm muscles after sprint interval and moderate intensity training in subjects with Type 2 Diabetes or Prediabetes.” Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 2017.

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