Performing short cycle sprints three times a week could be enough to prevent and possibly treat a common form of diabetes, a new study has claimed.
Type 2 diabetes occurs when blood sugar levels build up to dangerously high levels due to reduced insulin function, often caused by a sedentary lifestyle.
The condition can cause life-threatening complications to the heart, kidneys, eyes and limbs.
Regular exercise can help keep blood sugar levels low but busy lifestyles and lack of motivation mean 66 percent of the population is not getting the recommended five 30-minute sessions of moderate exercise a week.
For the new study, scientists at the University of Bath asked volunteers to perform two 20-second cycle sprints on exercise bikes, three times per week.
After six weeks, researchers at the university’s Department of Health saw a 28 percent improvement in their insulin function.
“Our muscles have sugar stores, called glycogen, for use during exercise,” the Daily Mail quoted Niels Vollaard, lead author of the study as saying.
“To restock these after exercise, the muscle needs to take up sugar from the blood.
“In inactive people there is less need for the muscles to do this, which can lead to poor sensitivity to insulin, high blood sugar levels, and eventually type 2 diabetes.
“We already knew that very intense sprint training can improve insulin sensitivity but we wanted to see if the exercise sessions could be made easier and shorter,” he said.
In the study the resistance on the exercise bikes could be rapidly increased so volunteers were able to briefly exercise at much higher intensities than they would otherwise be able to achieve.
With an undemanding warm-up and cool-down, the total time of each session was only 10 minutes.
“We know of no quicker and easier way of getting the muscles to use glycogen than with the short sprints we used in our study,” Vollaard said.
“These sprints break down as much glycogen in 20 seconds as moderate endurance exercise would in an hour,” he added.
The study has been published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology.