One of the things people tell me is most difficult for them when it comes to starting to exercise regularly is just getting started. Now a study published in the journal BioMed Central Endocrine Disorders suggests that people unable to meet government guidelines calling for moderate to vigorous exercise 30 minutes a day, or several hours per week, can actually benefit from significantly less exercise.
Reuters News is reporting from London that British researchers are saying that rigorous workouts lasting as little as three minutes may help prevent diabetes by helping control blood sugar.
“This is such a brief amount of exercise you can do it without breaking a sweat,” James Timmons, an exercise biologist at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, who led the study, told Reuters.
“You can make just as big as an effect doing this as you can by doing hours and hours of endurance training each week.”
Type 2 diabetes, which affects an estimated 246 million adults worldwide and accounts for 6 percent of all global deaths, is a condition in which the body gradually loses the ability to use insulin properly to convert food to energy.
Very strict diet and vigorous, regular and sustained exercise can reverse type 2 diabetes, but this can be difficult for many people. The condition is closely linked to inactivity.
According to Reuters, Timmons and his team showed that just seven minutes of exercise each week helped a group of 16 men in their early twenties control their insulin.
The volunteers, who were relatively out of shape but otherwise healthy, rode an exercise bike four times daily in 30 second spurts two days a week.
After two weeks, the young men had a 23 percent improvement in how effectively their body used insulin to clear glucose, or blood sugar, from the blood stream, Timmons said.
The effect appears to last up to 10 days after the last round of exercise, he added in a telephone interview.
“The simple idea is if you are doing tense muscle contractions during sprints or exercise on a bike you really enhance insulin’s ability to clear glucose out of the bloodstream,” Timmons said.
The findings highlight a way for people who do not have time to work out a few hours each week as recommended to improve their health, he added.
His team did not look for other important benefits to health that come from exercise, such as lowered blood pressure or weight control, but said another study had shown similar benefits to heart function.
But Timmons said getting people to exercise even a little could translate into big savings for health systems that spend hundreds of million of dollars treating diabetes.
So, are you ready to start? Maybe you could park a bit farther away from the door at work, the mall, or the supermarket, and walk briskly to and from the building. Walk up steps instead of taking the elevator. Or, walk during your breaks at work.
Or, if you choose an exercise program, find something you enjoy doing (walking, biking, jogging, gardening, etc.), and do it with a friend you enjoy being with – who can serve as an accountability partner.
Exercise can not only increase the quantity of your life, but also improve the quantity of your life.