High intensity exercise and diabetes 9 December 2014 High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is an enhanced type of exercise which can have positive benefits for many people with diabetes if performed safely and under supervision. However Diabetes NSW Accredited Exercise Physiologist Joel Tuccia says it may not be safe or suitable for everyone. HIIT is an exercise routine that alternates periods of short intense workouts with less-intense recovery periods. HIIT sessions last anywhere between 4â€“30 minutes in length. A HIIT exercise session often consists of a warm-up period three to ten sprints or bursts of high intensity exercise these are alternated with periods of rest or activity of a much lower intensity (for example, sprinting alternated with walking). The exercises are dependent on the fitness of the individual and the activity chosen, but may be as little as three repetitions of a 20-second intense workout Is HIIT safe for people with diabetes or heart disease? People with diabetes or any underlying condition associated with diabetes and metabolic syndrome should seek the guidance of an accredited exercise physiologist when considering adopting a HIIT workout. HIIT has been shown to be very safe and effective when performed in a controlled environment. However this type of exercise should always be considered on an individual basis. Studies involving people with type 2 diabetes showed a 23% improvement in insulin sensitivity after only two weeks of HIIT(Please note that the study used a regime of 3×20 minute sessions per week, much longer than the widely-known â€˜six-minute sessionsâ€™). Why is HIIT so effective? HIIT aims to push your energy systems by driving your body hard for short periods. As a result it starts burning or using nutrients (especially oxygen) faster than they can be replaced during the exercise. HIIT has been shown to improve blood pressure and insulin sensitivity and reduce total and Lo-Density Lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, while boosting levels of cardio-protective High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. HIIT is not for everyone HIIT is not a quick and easy replacement for traditional workouts, and has been proven to be most beneficial when part of a wider exercise routine. Donâ€™t forget, all the hard work and pain associated with any workout regime will be for nothing if you sit still for more than eight hours a day. â€˜Sittingâ€™ itself is considered a risk factor for disease. Even if you successfully complete a six-minute HIIT program per week (or the more traditional 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day), you still double your risk of heart disease by spending the rest of the day sitting. HIIT is definitely an interesting prospect which will help shape exercise routines in the future. However, the evidence is inconclusive that HIIT provides the same long-term proven benefits and low risk profile associated with traditional exercise routines. Diabetes NSW always recommends people seek guidance from a health professional when considering any new exercise program, including HIIT. Call us on 1300 342 238 to speak to one of our Accredited Exercise Physiologists today.