Student targets tweaks for diabetes patients

Paul Mayne // Western News

First-year Science student Avinash Pandey’s independent research shows Type 2 diabetes patients may benefit more from high-intensity exercise in short bursts, as opposed to 30 minutes of sustained, lower-intensity exercise.

While exercise is an important part of managing diabetes, a new way of looking at how that exercise is accomplished throughout the day may offer relief to many Type 2 diabetes sufferers.

Independent research by first-year Science student Avinash Pandey shows Type 2 diabetes patients may benefit more from high-intensity exercise in short bursts, as opposed to 30 minutes of sustained, lower-intensity exercise. This method may improve cholesterol, blood sugar and weight.

Inspired by the volumes of research on ‘burst exercise’ in healthy volunteers, Pandey started to question the potential benefits for those with diabetes.

“It’s the higher intensity, and the fact the exercise is broken up so that you do it multiple times a day,” said Pandey, who actually completed the independent study while still in high school in Waterloo, Ont. “Looking purely caloric, the higher intensity helps patients to burn more calories specifically from fat and from carbs, which can explain the reduction in blood sugar. Additionally, we know sedentarism, or extended period of not moving, can have very negative affects on health. Breaking up exercise helps to reduce that.”

With the help of Université Laval’s Institute of Cardiology and Pneumology professor Paul Poirier, Pandey’s research was presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions this past month in Florida. The study was conducted in 76 patients with Type 2 diabetes (70 per cent male, average age 67) who were recruited for the study shortly after their diagnosis. Patients were randomly assigned to either 30 minutes of exercise five days a week at 65 per cent of their target heart rate or 10 minutes of exercise three times a day, five days a week at 85 per cent of their target heart rate.

After three months of high-intensity exercise in 10-minute bursts, patients saw an average .82 per cent decrease in blood sugar patterns, compared with just .25 per cent among those who performed more sustained, lower-intensity exercise.

“It was a complete surprise to us,” Pandey said. “We designed our own exercise regiment, based on the results of previous studies. But nothing like this was ever expected. More may be accomplished with short bursts of vigorous exercise, in which patients achieve a higher maximum target heart rate.

“We also found these 10 minute intervals may be easier to fit into busy schedules, since people randomized to that regimen were more consistent with exercise and ended up doing more exercise per week. Not only is it better for you, but it also caused patients wanting to exercise more, even though they were prescribed the same amount of exercise.”

Pandey added it’s unclear why shorter bursts of high-intensity exercise would lead to more significant improvements, but one theory is higher-intensity exercise uses energy in a different way.

“We are hoping to continue looking at burst exercise and sustained exercise in larger and more diverse patient populations,” said Pandey, who is is currently working with Western Epidemiology and Biostatistics professor Neville Suskin to move his research forward. “With further study, burst exercise may become a viable alternative to the current standard of care of low-intensity, sustained exercise for diabetes rehabilitation.

“Exercise is something that is important to everyone and, in particular when you look at diabetes. It’s crucially important for diabetes patients to help reduce the disease progression and better control their disease.”