Interval Exercise Therapy for Type 2 Diabetes

Curr Diabetes Rev. 2018;14(2):129-137. doi: 10.2174/1573399812666161101103655.


Background: Regular exercise improves glycemic control and reduces cardiovascular risk and mortality in patients with type 2 diabetes. Continuous moderate- to high-intensity exercise has been recommended to manage type 2 diabetes; however, only approximately 30% of diabetic patients achieve the recommended levels of physical activity. The reasons for not engaging in regular exercise vary; however, one of the common reasons is lack of time. Recently, the effectiveness of shortduration interval exercise such as high-intensity interval training and interval walking has been observed. Thus, the author aimed to summarize the current knowledge and discuss recent literature regarding the effects of interval exercise therapy in type 2 diabetes.

Methods: The author searched the English literature on interval training and type 2 diabetes using Pub- Med. A total of 8 studies met the criteria.

Results: Interval exercise is feasible and effective in obtaining glycemic control in patients with type 2 diabetes. It may also improve body composition, insulin sensitivity, aerobic capacity, and oxidative stress more effectively than continuous exercise.

Conclusion: As a novel exercise therapy, interval training appears to be effective in managing type 2 diabetes. However, the safety and efficacy of this exercise modality in patients with progressed diabetic complications or a history of cardiovascular disease and in extremely older individuals remain unknown. Additionally, there is considerable heterogeneity in exercise interventions (intensity and duration) between clinical studies. Further studies are needed.

Keywords: Exercise; glycemic control; high intensity interval training; insulin sensitivity; interval walking; type 2 diabetes.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / complications*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / therapy*
  • Exercise Therapy / methods*
  • Humans
  • Insulin Resistance*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Time Factors
  • Walking


  • Blood Glucose