Interval Training Knocks Down Blood Sugar: Exercise Bursts are Fast and Effective

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by Lisa Marlene

Labels may vary, but results are what count. Whether called highintensity intermittent exercise (HIIE), interval or burst-style training, recent research proves that this form of exercise improves insulin levels. This is promising news for the estimated 50 million American adults that have abdominal obesity and are on the path toward metabolic dysfunction due to a high-sugar diet that causes spikes and crashes in blood sugar levels and eventually contributes to insulin resistance.

According to a recent study published in the Journal of Obesity, the benefits of doing HIIE at least three times a week for two to six weeks include reduction of abdominal body fat, improved aerobic and anaerobic fitness and lower levels of insulin resistance.

In a separate study, Norwegian researchers examined the impact that different types of exercise programs had on individuals seeking to reverse metabolic dysfunction, an overall chemical imbalance largely attributed to insulin resistance. They concluded that despite producing similar effects on body weight and blood pressure, the aerobic interval training group also showed greater improvement in insulin sensitivity, aerobic capacity and highdensity lipoprotein (HDL, or “good” cholesterol) than those performing continuous moderate exercise. They also exhibited lower blood glucose (sugar) levels.

Another beneficial HIIE characteristic is that it involves markedly fewer exercise repetitions and less training time. JJ Virgin, a fitness and nutrition expert and author of The Virgin Diet, recommends incorporating burststyle and resistance training for fast, lasting fat loss and improving insulin resistance. Best of all, you can do these exercises in minutes a day.

“Burst exercise means working out in short intense bursts of 30 to 60 seconds, coupled with one to two minutes of active recovery time, moving at a lower intensity that allows you to catch your breath and lower your heart rate,” she explains.

Two easy examples of this are sprinting to burst and then walking to recover, and running up stairs to burst, and then walking down them to recover. “This should be repeated for a total of four to eight minutes of highintensity bursts per session. Overall, this will take 20 to 30 minutes,” says Virgin.

She notes that the increase in stress hormones that occurs during HIIE are counteracted by the simultaneously raised levels of anabolic-building hormones. “Short bursts train the body in how to handle stress and recover. Repeated intense bursts raise the lactic acid level, which in turn raises growth hormone production and supports fat burning. The research is clear that the more intense the exercise, the bigger the metabolic benefit is afterward.”

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