Exercise Treats Before Meals May Help Diabetes

Exercise treats — short bits of intense physical activity — before meals may help with glycemic control in patients with insulin resistance, a condition that can lead to type 2 diabetes. A small, elegant randomized crossover control study just published online in Diabetologia points to a potentially promising strategy for maximizing the benefit of exercise for people with insulin resistance and possibly type 2 diabetes.

Monique Francois and colleagues tested three different exercise regimens:

  • 30 minutes of moderate-intensity incline walking before dinner
  • 6 one-minute intervals of intense incline walking 30 minutes before each meal
  • 6 one-minute intervals that alternated between intense incline walking and resistance band exercise 30 minutes before each meal

What they found was better glycemic control after the short, intense regimens before each meal, compared to 30 minutes of continuous, moderate exercise before dinner only. The two intensive regimens yielded very similar results. The benefits persisted for 24 hours after the exercise. By contrast, continuous exercise before dinner had no effect on glucose levels after dinner and no impact on glycemic control during the next day.

It’s worth noting that this is a small (n=9), but well-designed study that merits follow-up to confirm the findings in a larger population over a longer study period.

These findings complement a growing evidence base that supports the value of short intense intervals of exercise as an efficient and effective approach. Considerable research is suggesting that short exercise treats during the day might blunt harm of prolonged sitting. What this study adds is a suggestion that a burst of activity before meals might be especially helpful for folks with insulin resistance.

Smart exercise strategies, validated with good outcomes research, can come from this.

“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.” — Carl Sagan

Click here to read more in the LA Times, here to read the abstract of the study, and here to download the full text and supplementary methods methods data in a zip file.

Happy Darwin, photograph © George Thomas / flickr

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