Washington: A new study, published in Experimental Physiology by researchers from the University of Glasgow, has highlighted several of the positive health effects of short duration, high-intensity resistance exercise training programme in overweight men.
According to the study, a six-week programme consisting of three 15 minute sessions per week dramatically improves insulin sensitivity, as well as muscle size and strength in men.
The authors hope that these results can be shown to apply to individuals with Type II diabetes, of whom 90 per cent are overweight or obese.
According to the study, short-duration bouts of exercise to exhaustion are just as effective in improving insulin sensitivity (how sensitive the body is to the effects of the hormone, insulin) as longer duration (45 minutes) resistance exercise sessions. Such short sessions might be more appealing and attainable in a world where time is a frequently cited barrier to physical activity.
Notably, when insulin sensitivity decreases (as in Type II diabetes), blood sugars rise, which in the short-term can lead to feelings of fatigue, but over time is related to complications including heart disease and stroke.
Previous research had suggested 45 minutes of resistance training with multiple sets of each exercise could increase insulin sensitivity, muscle size and muscle strength, but no studies had tested the efficacy of shorter exercise resistance exercise programmes.
The research team recruited ten overweight men (as distinguished by a Body Mass Index of 25-30), who trained three times a week for six weeks.
Each training session involved a single set of nine standard resistance exercises such as leg presses and bicep curls, performed at 80 per cent of their maximum single repetition lift until volitional failure (i.e. when a further repetition could not be completed).
Muscle size, muscle strength and insulin sensitivity were measured before and after the training period. Comparisons of these measurements revealed that insulin sensitivity increased by 16 per cent following the exercise regimen.
Stuart Gray, who led the research group, is already thinking of other ways to build on his team’s work.
“On top of these results, we know that the gym is not for everyone. Therefore, we also need to see if we can get people doing similar exercises at home without gym equipment, to achieve similarly beneficial effects,” he said.