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A comparison of the health benefits of reduced-exertion high-intensity interval training (REHIT) and moderate-intensity walking in type 2 diabetes patients

José S. Ruffino, Preeyaphorn Songsorn, Malindi Haggett, Daniel Edmonds, Anthony M. Robinson, Dylan Thompson, Niels B.J. Vollaard
Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism 2016 v.42 no.2 pp. 202-208
blood lipids, body composition, body mass index, cross-over studies, dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry, glucose, glucose tolerance tests, glycemic control, heart rate, insulin resistance, lipid composition, men, monitoring, noninsulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, nutrition, patients, walking
Reduced-exertion high-intensity interval training (REHIT) is a genuinely time-efficient intervention that can improve aerobic capacity and insulin sensitivity in sedentary individuals. The present study compared the effects of REHIT and moderate-intensity walking on health markers in patients with type 2 diabetes (T2D) in a counter-balanced crossover study. Sixteen men with T2D (mean ± SD age: 55 ± 5 years, body mass index: 30.6 ± 2.8 kg·m⁻², maximal aerobic capacity: 27 ± 4 mL·kg⁻¹·min⁻¹) completed 8 weeks of REHIT (three 10-min low-intensity cycling sessions/week with two “all-out” 10–20-s sprints) and 8 weeks of moderate-intensity walking (five 30-min sessions/week at an intensity corresponding to 40%–55% of heart-rate reserve), with a 2-month wash-out period between interventions. Before and after each intervention, participants underwent an incremental fitness test, an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT), a whole-body dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry scan, and continuous glucose monitoring. REHIT was associated with a significantly larger increase in maximal aerobic capacity compared with walking (7% vs. 1%; time × intervention interaction effect: p < 0.05). Both REHIT and walking decreased resting mean arterial pressure (−4%; main effect of time: p < 0.05) and plasma fructosamine (−5%; main effect of time: p < 0.05). Neither intervention significantly improved OGTT-derived measures of insulin sensitivity, glycaemic control measured using continuous glucose monitors, blood lipid profile, or body composition. We conclude that REHIT is superior to a 5-fold larger volume of moderate-intensity walking in improving aerobic fitness, but similar to walking REHIT is not an effective intervention for improving insulin sensitivity or glycaemic control in T2D patients in the short term.