In individuals with insulin resistance, short bursts of intense exercise may be an effective alternative to a prolonged bout of continuous, moderate exercise for improving glycemic control, according to research published online in Diabetologia.

Monique E. Francois, of the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand, and colleagues assigned nine individuals with insulin resistance to 3 exercise interventions (before meals) in randomized order: 30 minutes of continuous, moderate-intensity incline walking (CONT); exercise snacking (ES) consisting of 6 1-minute intervals of intense incline walking; or composite ES consisting of 6 1-minute intervals of alternating walking and resistance training (CES).

The researchers found that ES reduced mean 3-hour postprandial glucose concentration following breakfast (by 1.4 mmol/L) but not following lunch (by 0.4 mmol/L). ES was more effective than CONT in reducing mean 3-hour postprandial glucose concentration following dinner (lower by 0.7 mmol/L). ES reduced 24-hour mean glucose concentration by 0.7 mmol/L, and this reduction continued for the next 24 hours (lower by 0.6 mmol/L than CONT relative to their baseline values). CES was as effective for improving glycemic control as ES.

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“Dosing exercise as brief, intense ‘exercise snacks’ before main meals is a time-efficient and effective approach to improve glycemic control in individuals with insulin resistance,” the authors wrote.