Quick Workouts for People With Diabetes

No time to exercise? Short, intense physical activity can help you manage blood sugar levels.

Medically reviewed in July 2022

It's the end of the day, and you don't have time to hit the gym for your regular workout. Should you leave it until tomorrow or carve out time for a little exercise today? If you have diabetes, go for the second option. Any physical activity is better than none, and adding short, intense bursts of activity to a mini workout may help your body do a better job of metabolizing glucose to regulate your blood sugar level.

Short, Fast and Furious
In a small study, volunteers worked out on stationary bikes three times a week for a minimum of 17 minutes per session. That's pretty manageable. Then, during the sessions, they threw in a handful of 30-second bursts of high-intensity cycling. Again, not too taxing. After the bursts, they rested or cycled slowly for 4 minutes. The result? When the volunteers were given the equivalent of a meal's worth of glucose at the end of the study, their bodies metabolized it better than before the study.

Just a Little Helps a Lot
Researchers suspect that bursts of intensity during workouts elicit stronger muscle contractions and therefore more glucose uptake in the large muscles attached to bones. The lesson: If your busy day only leaves time for a short workout, be sure to add a few bouts of higher-intensity effort. Your blood sugar will be better for it.

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