- Thursday, 08 December 2011
Exercising for just ONE MINUTE a day could prevent and even treat diabetes, researchers revealed.
Scientists at the University of Bath asked volunteers to perform two, 20-second cycle sprints three times-a-week.
The participants showed a 28 per cent improvement in their insulin function - affected by Type 2 diabetes - after just six weeks. Just 20 seconds of intense sprints were found to break down as much glycogen - sugar stores in the body - as an HOUR of moderate endurance exercise.
Type 2 diabetes - which costs the NHS £1 million every minute - occurs when blood sugar levels build up to dangerously high levels due to reduced insulin function. This is often caused by a sedentary lifestyle. Currently, 66 per cent of the population do not do exercise for 30 minutes five times a week, as recommended.
Those over the age of 40 are most likely to develop the disease. Dr Niels Vollaard, from Bath University's Department for Health, said the quick exercise could easily be incorporated into a daily routine.
He said: "This is completely new. No one has ever found a programme this easy and short to provide health benefits. "At the moment it has only been done in lab conditions but it would be easy to create a bike that does this in a gym setting. It could even be done in the workplace.
"Our muscles have sugar stores, called glycogen, for use during exercise. 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."
In the study, the resistance on the exercise bikes could be rapidly increased so the volunteers were able to briefly exercise at much higher intensities than usual. They were shown how to do an undemanding warm-up and cool down, which brought the total time of their session to 10 minutes.
The sprints were found to be more effective than endurance exercise at forcing the body to break down glycogen - stores of carbohydrate sugars in the blood.
Dr Vollaard added: "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.
"These sprints break down as much glycogen in 20 seconds as moderate endurance exercise would in an hour."
He added that the exercise was not suitable for weight loss as the sprints are too short to burn many calories, but does improve general fitness.
The study, which is published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology, is being extended with more volunteers to determine whether the exercise sessions can be made even shorter.