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Exercising an Hour Every Two Days Works for People with Diabetes

People with diabetes don’t need to exercise every day to see an effect on their blood sugar levels…. 

In 30 men with type 2 diabetes, Dutch researchers found that exercising for 30 minutes daily or an hour every two days were equally effective. Dr. Luc J.C. van Loon of the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands noted that, “Our findings suggest that frequent short bouts of moderate exercise can be substituted for less frequent exercise bouts of a longer duration in people with type 2 diabetes, or vice versa.”

The men in his study were 60 years old on average and about half were using insulin. The rest managed their condition with diet and some were also using oral medication. In general, they were relatively healthy, without heart disease or morbid obesity. The crossover study involved three protocols, separated by at least four days. Throughout each phase, the men ate a standardized diet but otherwise maintained their habitual levels of activity.

Under one protocol, the men cycled between 10 and 11 a.m. on the first day, rested from 10 to 11 a.m. the next day, and returned at 10 a.m. on the third day to have the continuous glucose monitoring device removed. Under another protocol, they cycled for 30 minutes starting at 10 a.m. on two consecutive days. In the third phase, they didn’t exercise at all.

In the control phase, glucose levels were elevated 32% of the time. But when they biked, glucose levels were high only 24% of the time, no matter which schedule they followed. The two exercise schedules also did equally well in terms of lowering the mean blood glucose concentration. Women with type 2 diabetes are likely to reap the same benefits as the men in this study.

Currently, the American Diabetes Association recommends 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise, such as brisk walking.

Dr. van Loon said, “These findings set the stage for a more personalized exercise prescription, tailored to the needs and capabilities of the individual with type 2 diabetes.”

Published online before print March 7, 2012, doi: 10.2337/dc11-2112 Diabetes Care March 7, 2012