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Why HITT Might Be Better Than Traditional Cardio for Managing Your Diabetes

June 29, 2019

You’ve probably heard of standard cardio exercises like running, cycling, rowing, or swimming. All of those are great for managing your diabetes and losing weight, but recent research has shown that another type of workout might actually give you greater benefits in a shorter amount of time. High Intensity Interval Training – HITT for short – breaks up a workout into short bursts of activity followed by brief rest. Keep reading to find out more about HITT, why it could help you manage your diabetes, and get a list of some workouts to try.

What Is HITT?


HITT refers to the duration and intensity of the workout, not necessarily the actual movements. Running, cycling, squats, jumps, and other types of exercise can all be done as HITT programs as long as it goes between about 20 seconds of hard effort followed by 10 seconds of rest. HITT can be exhausting, but it can also be really good for many people as it has been shown to be better at regulating glucose than longer, lower-intensity efforts. But, as with any exercise program (especially one that’s as tough as HITT), check with a doctor to make sure that it’s not too much of a strain.


How Does HITT Help With Diabetes?


HITT programs may be easier for some people to keep up over time, which is extremely important when figuring out a good workout plan. After all, if you don’t do the exercises, they can’t help. People who are on HITT programs have also shown improvements in both HbA1c levels and VO2 max over longer, lower intensity cardio. That means there’s a little bit more of a benefit with less time investment.


HITT Exercises


A popular version is called “Tabata training.” It involves 20 seconds on, 10 seconds rest for 4 minutes total. This is repeated three more times, for a total of four sets.


“HITT can really be any combination of exercises, just as long as they’re done in short bursts with rest in between.”


Good exercises to start with for these would be sprints on a stationary bike, row machine, or a running track. When you get more accustomed to these types of workouts, you can start adding in new exercises like squats, burpees, push ups, and other more complicated options. No matter which ones you do, though, check with your doctor first to make sure that they’re appropriate for you. And, try not to do the same HITT workout two days in a row. They’re pretty intense so there is a higher risk of injury.

How To Do A HITT Workout Properly


By the end of a set during a HITT workout, you’ll probably feel pretty tired. It’s to be expected that you won’t be able to do as many squats or run as fast on on the first set – and that’s fine. Expect to get fatigued and be moving pretty slowly by the last few reps. The goal here isn’t to keep a consistent pace so much as to get short bursts of high intensity.


HITT is tough, but it’s also rewarding. As studies have shown, there’s a big benefit to be had for people with diabetes. Just be sure you talk with a doctor before starting!

Doctor Profile

Molly Maloof, MD

Physician, technologist, and entrepreneur
Head of Medical Science at Sano Intelligence
Medical advisor/strategy consultant to over 20 companies in biotechnology, digital health, nutrition, and food industries

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