HIIT Workouts : A Cure for Type 2 Diabetes?

For years, doctors have been telling their type 2 diabetic patients that they need to exercise in order to keep their diabetes under control.

In Canada, the Canadian Diabetes Association calls for 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise per week. Unfortunately, just like the rest of us non-diabetics, finding 150 minutes to exercise is easier said than done.

And that’s why this McMaster University study is such a big deal.

The Study

Researchers  found that  just six HIIT workouts (high intensity interval training) performed over two weeks was very effective at:

  • lowering 24-hour blood sugar concentrations,
  • reducing blood sugar spikes after meals, and
  • increasing skeletal muscle mitochondrial capacity, a marker of metabolic health.

And instead of requiring 150 minutes per week, the HIIT workouts cut that time in half – 75 minutes per week.

The Workout

The workout used in this study involved riding a stationary bike for 10 bouts of 60 seconds at roughly 90 percent of maximal heart rate, with one minute between each burst of exercise. The routine also included a warm up and cool down such that each training session lasted 25 minutes in total.

Participants showed improved blood sugar levels even though they did not lose weight during the short two-week study.

“The improved glycemic control may be linked to changes in the subjects’ muscles, such as an improved ability to clear glucose from the blood after meals”, says Gibala. “We need to conduct further research to identify the mechanisms behind these results.”


This is a small study and more research needs to be done before doctors start recommending their type 2 diabetic patients to begin an exercise routine of HIIT bike sprints, but it does follow up on previous studies.

Dr. Martin Gibala, professor in the Department of Kinesiology at McMaster and supervising author of the study said that:

“These findings are intriguing because they suggest that exercising very strenuously for short periods of time, may provide many of the same health benefits as traditional exercise training. This is the first study to show that intense interval training may be a potent, time-efficient strategy to improve glycemic regulation in people with type 2 diabetes.”


Douglas Robb

Doug Robb is a personal trainer, a fitness blogger and author, a competitive athlete, and a student of nutrition and exercise science. He's also the co-founder of the Hive Health Media. Since 2008, Doug has expanded his impact by bringing his real-world experience online via the health & fitness blog – Health Habits.

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