exercising

The Fast Path to Heart Health with Diabetes

David Mendosa Health Guide July 30, 2013
  • Almost all of us who have diabetes are too busy to keep our hearts in good shape. At least most of us act as if we were.


    When our hearts get out of shape, we aren’t so busy any more. Heart disease is the most common as well as the most serious complication of diabetes.


    This combination of lack of time and importance of heart health drive my quest for a quicker way to meet this challenge of living long with diabetes.


    Lead Author Arnt Erik Tjønna (left) Tests a Volunteer for his Maximal Oxygen Uptake


    A couple of weeks ago I learned the answer when I was in Canada’s Yukon Territory. I was driving to Alaska, where I am enjoying a cool summer. I had my car radio tuned to 105.1 FM from Burwash Landing, a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Radio One station. The speaker was Dr. Brian Goldman.


    He was talking about a new study by researchers in Norway that showed how three short high-intensity training sessions each week is a more efficient way to improve maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max) than longer regular training, a well-established measure of physical fitness. The shorter and more efficient training was just one 4-minute interval at 90 percent of the participants maximum heart rate done three times a week.


    Eventually, I found the study that Dr. Goldman was talking about. I had missed the original research article when PLOS ONE published it on May 29. It was easy to miss because of its rather technical title, “Low- and High-Volume of Intensive Endurance Training Significantly Improves Maximal Oxygen Uptake after 10-Weeks of Training in Healthy Men.”


    Most of us probably think that to get in shape means that we have to do hours and hours of training. This new research shows, however, that doing just four minutes of vigorous activity three times per week in enough for us to be fit and healthy. This is easier to incorporate into our busy daily lives.


    A couple of cavaets are in order. The study was of 26 inactive but otherwise healthy overweight men and the findings may not, of course, hold for previously active men or for women or for people not in good health. And, of course, before starting such intense exercise you will have to consult with your doctor, particularly if you are already suffering heart problems.


    But the very idea of intense exercise makes a lot of sense to me. I have written here about the advantages of a similar strategy called interval training, most recently at “Get Fit Fast with Diabetes” and follow it myself.