If you’re at high risk for diabetes and feel like you must exercise harder to achieve similar results to other people who aren’t at high risk, research shows you might be right.

Scientists from Lund University in Sweden compared the effects of exercise on two groups of middle-aged, slightly overweight men. One group was not at risk for diabetes and the other had a high-risk profile. Researchers found that both groups enjoyed similar health benefits from exercise, but the high-risk group had to exercise more to achieve them.

In the study, both groups were offered three exercise sessions each week, with one cycling class and two aerobics classes. Researchers evaluated the subjects’ blood sugar levels and even biopsied muscle to take into consideration gene activity when quantifying the benefits of physical activity.

The high-risk group attended the workout sessions more regularly than the low-risk group. Subjects in both groups lost weight, inches in their waistline, and experienced increased cardiovascular endurance. However, the high-risk group did not see more dramatic results despite the increased time they spent exercising.

Scientists said the results meant that the high-risk subjects needed a higher level of physical activity to enjoy the same level of health benefits that lower-risk patients enjoyed from working out less.

Diabetes patients and those at risk must exercise harder to achieve the same results as low-risk patients, researchers say.

Scientists aren’t sure why this is the case—that needs to be determined through future studies—but the findings could be useful for helping people with diabetes or those at high risk for determining how much exercise they should do. Researcher Ola Hansson says:

“It is interesting to see that there is a difference despite the fact that all of them are actually healthy and otherwise very similar. We now hope to continue with further studies, including examining whether exercise intensity rather than volume is a crucial factor in determining how the risk group responds to exercise.”

Exercise is an excellent way to manage diabetes risk and manage the disease. It improves the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar and contributes to weight loss. Knowing that patients at risk for diabetes must exercise more vigorously to see health benefits, the question becomes which types of exercise are most beneficial?

For patients with diabetes, some types of exercise are better than others for promoting health.

1. High-intensity fitness

One type of exercise recommended for those with diabetes or at-risk is high-intensity exercise. This type of workout involves short intervals of high-intensity movement. It’s sometimes referred to as high-intensity interval training (HIIT).

Research from the American Heart Association compared two groups of type 2 diabetes patients. One group participated in 30 minutes of low-intensity exercise and the second did short bursts of high-intensity activity. The second group saw dramatically superior improvements in blood sugar levels and weight loss.

This study was important because programs to help patients manage diabetes have typically focused on low-intensity exercise. Study author Avinash Pandey says:

“More may be accomplished with short bursts of vigorous exercise, in which patients achieve a higher maximum target heart rate, and may be easier to fit into busy schedules…People randomized to that regimen were more consistent with exercise and ended up doing more exercise per week.”

In the study, the low-intensity group was initially asked to exercise five days each week for 30 minutes at a time while the high-intensity group was asked to work out in ten minute intervals, three times each day, also five days each week.

The high-intensity group ultimately exercised more, even though the amount of time they were asked to commit to fitness was actually the same.

Scientists aren’t sure why the high-intensity workouts were so effective, but theorize it could have a different affect on the body.

If you’re just starting a high-intensity training regimen, be kind to your body. Here is a series of workouts from The Daily Burn that are perfect for beginners.

2. Weight-lifting

Research from Harvard School of Public Health shows that lifting weights could reduce a male’s risk of diabetes by a whopping 34%. Adding aerobic exercise into the mix reduces risk even more, by up to 59%.

To experience the benefit, men must lift weights for 30 minutes, five days each week. Researchers didn’t examine the potential benefits for women. In the study, walking quickly or running was evaluated for the aerobic portion.

The study results gave researchers hope because they said for many people, lifting weights is an easier activity to stick to in the long-term than aerobics. The effects of weight lifting were so dramatic that researchers said it could be used as an alternative to aerobic activity, although combining the two bestowed the most pronounced benefits.

3. Exercise at the optimal time each day

For diabetes patients, research shows it’s best to exercise after dinner, according to scientists at the University of Missouri-Columbia. Study author Jill Kanaley says:

“This study shows that it is not just the intensity or duration of exercising that is important but also the timing of when it occurs.”

In the study, participants exercised about 45 minutes after eating their evening meal. The workout included leg curls, stomach crunches, and seated calf raises. After-dinner exercisers experienced reduced fat and blood sugar levels while the before-dinner exercisers reduced only blood sugar levels.

Unfortunately, the benefits were short-lived and didn’t extend into the next day. Researchers recommend exercising daily to enjoy maximum benefit. Another reason exercising at night may be better than in the morning is because dinner provides fuel for the body. In the morning, people have generally not eaten for eight hours or more, researchers said.

If you do exercise after dinner, try to eat relatively early. Exercising too late in the day could keep you up at night and interfere with sleep.

What is your favorite way to exercise and reduce your diabetes risk or manage the disease?

Image by Jon Clegg via Flickr

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