High intensity interval training is great for type one diabetics

Adapted from HIIT provides multiple advantages in patients with type 1 diabetes. Diabetes in Control May 23 2020 by George McConnell Pharm D candidate. LECOM School of Pharmacy.

Lifestyle changes are hard. Many type one diabetics lead sedentary lives. They have a big fear of hypoglycaemia from exercise. Another complaint is that they don’t have enough time. High intensity interval training has been gaining popularity over the last few years due to its low time commitment. HIIT improves vascular function without the reductions in blood sugar that are often associated with moderate intensity exercise.

One study looked at what happened at home. Eleven type 1s completed six weeks of HIIT at home. A session was one minute of HIIT followed by one minute of rest. The goal was to get to 80% or more of their predicted maximum heart rate from the formula 220- age. The exercise component was two thirty second body weight exercises with no rest in between. There were 18 exercises and 9 suggested pairings but the participants were allowed to choose what they did of these exercises. They were to exercise on three days of the week, starting at six minutes and building up by two sessions every two weeks. They had heart rate monitors that could be downloaded so they and the researchers could see their results. They were to exercise only when their blood sugar was between 7 and 14 mmol/L.(126-252mg/dL). Blood sugars, insulin and ingested carbohydrates were measured.

Adherence was 95% and pulse targets were achieved. Glucose levels remained the same during and one hour after exercise. Carbs were ingested in 6% of the sessions. Insulin was needed after only 3 of the 188 sessions. There was no severe hypoglycaemic episodes. After six weeks there was a mean decrease of 13% in their daily short acting insulin doses. There were no significant changes to the mean blood glucose concentration or to BMI.

Home exercise means that there is no commute or gym fees. It was a bit sad that there was no weight loss despite the strict adherence to the regime by these motivated participants.

The top three barriers to exercise in type 1s are given as lack of time 91%, fear of hypos 27%, and a lack of motivation 18%, so these quick, high intensity exercise sessions can provide a solution to these barriers. It is convenient, quick, requires no equipment, does not adversely affect blood sugar levels and can increase motivation to exercise. It only took 60 minutes a week overall.

Practice pearls:

HIIT at home is quick and does not need gym attendance.

HIIT is good for busy people taking an hour a week.

HIIT reduces short acting insulin doses.

HIIT does not cause significant hypos, but blood sugar levels should still be checked.

HIIT sadly does not cause weight loss.

Scott Sam N et al. A multidisciplinary evaluation of a virtually supervised home based high intensity interval training intervention in people with type one diabetes. Diabetes Care. ADA. 1 Dec 2019.

Diabetes: I’m Thankful For…

diabetes diet
Go to bed early with a good book and other advantages to diabetes.

How much does diabetes shape your personality? If you’ve ever experienced high blood sugars while at a party or surrounded by other people, you’ll know feeling tired and ill turns you into an introvert. Making conversation, especially with strangers, requires far too much effort.

Perhaps many of we introverted diabetics are extroverts dying to get out? Without the ups and downs of diabetes, we’d be flinging ourselves at strangers, auditioning for the X Factor, dominating meetings at work and organising sing-songs whenever we get together with friends and family?! Everyone would secretly dread us coming into a room. “Oh no, it’s XXXX. Now we’re going to be bullied into singing/dancing/playing some daft game.”

Just a thought…

When you experience on target blood sugars, the resultant energy gives you confidence – the kind of confidence that makes life’s more extroverted activities do-able and possible. I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of nine and it’s been with me for all of my adult life.

There are plenty of positives diabetes has given me. One of the blogs we follow – Georgina M Llloyd – listed 30 ways diabetes has helped improve her life. I had a think about some of the ways it has shaped mine.

Here they are:

Organisational skills. You need tip-top organisational skills to stay on top of diabetes – ensuring you have enough medication, ordering and picking up repeat prescriptions, making sure you have carry enough medical gear with you, planning for exercise, keeping glucose tablets or jelly babies on hand, preparing for holidays etc.

An appreciation of the UK health system. A civilised country provides free healthcare to its citizens. As a type 1 diabetic, I’m so glad I live in the UK. All my medication, hospital appointments and eye checks are free. If I want extra help from a diabetic  nurse, that won’t cost anything either. I’ve got gum disease (it’s one of the side effects of diabetes, but it’s also common among the general population) and I’m receiving treatment at the dental hospital. That’s free too.

The ability to say no. Georgina mentioned this one too. When you’re a people pleaser as I am, it jars to say no to food people have lovingly prepared and placed in front of you. Practise it enough and it becomes automatic. And then you can use that ability elsewhere; being asked to do too much, for example.

A love of walking. I’ve tried lots of forms of exercise over the years. Walking is the best – it’s gentle, easy and it serves more than one purpose. It’s exercise, but it gets you from A to B. It’s exercise, but it helps lower your blood sugar levels. It’s exercise, but it calms the mind at the same time. It’s exercise and it gives you access to fresh air, beautiful views, chats with dog owners and more.

Health and fitness is my hobby. It might have become one of my interests anyway, but thanks to diabetes I’ve always found diet and activity fascinating. These days, we’re lucky enough to have access to lots of information. we can do our own research and work out the best ways to look after ourselves.

It gives you an excuse to go to bed early. A cosy bed and a good book? Just tell your other half that you want to read, sneak upstairs, put your pyjamas on and dive in. It’s legit because you need more sleep anyway, right?

How has diabetes improved or changed your life? What are you grateful for? 



Fit in Four Minutes

Sprinting, stopping and then starting again.
Sprinting, stopping and then starting again.

Does the idea of New Year resolutions send shivers down your spine..? It does mine.

For a start, January is a dull, dreich month here in Scotland and the thought of piling on misery in the form of Spartan eating and the like of boot camps can only make the month even more difficult to endure. And anyway, why choose one particular day for self-improvement when you could choose any day?


Having said all that (!), I did resolve to make Tabata training a regular part of my life this year. I wrote about Tabata training recently and the research I did for the article impressed me – particularly on the benefits of high-intensity interval training for type 1 and type 2 diabetics.

And for someone who has a very low boredom threshold, the idea of short, sharp exercise appeals. Continue reading “Fit in Four Minutes”