Setting aside time for a recommended 30-minute exercise session five times a week isn’t practicable for some. Our lives are busy. Besides trying to manage diabetes, life events sometimes get in the way and prevent us from getting enough exercise. But what if all we needed was two minutes of exercise twice a week?

It may sound too good to be true, but according to new research two minutes of high-intensity interval training twice a week may be just as effective as the current exercise guidelines in affecting blood glucose control.

For the study, overweight adults were asked to take part in high-intensity interval training exercises (HIIT) twice a week for eight weeks. HIIT exercises included a sprint series on a stationary exercise bike lasting about six seconds, and completing ten sprints total each session.

This was the first time that such a small amount of physical activity has shown such significant health benefits. Past research by the same team recommended three HIT sessions per week, but the new research found that two sessions could achieve the same results.

"We found that not only does HIT reduce the risk of them developing the disease, but also that the regime needs to be performed only twice a week in order for them to reap the benefits. And you don't have to be able to go at the speed of Usain Bolt when you're sprinting. As long as you are putting your maximal effort into the sprints, it will improve your health,” says Dr. John Babraj, head of the high-intensity training research team at Abertay University. "And this is the beauty of high-intensity training: it is quick to do and it is effective. Although it is well-established that exercise is a powerful therapy for the treatment and prevention of type 2 diabetes, only 40 percent of men and 28 percent of women achieve the recommended 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise on five days of the week.”

Everyone should be able to set aside four minutes a week to benefit his or her health. In the study, participants would sprint for six seconds and rest for six seconds. As you become stronger you can adjust the length of time you are sprinting and resting, for example 20 seconds sprinting and a ten second rest. Speak with your doctor before starting a new exercise routine and for help finding the right type of high-intensity exercise for your health. Here are some HIIT exercises that you can do at home for two minutes:

HIIT Exercises

  • Jump rope
  • Stationary exercise bike
  • Running on a treadmill (If you aren’t able to run you can increase the incline and walk at a quick pace)
  • Pushups
  • Burpees
  • Lunges
  • Jumping jacks

Exercise Before Meals

Other research has found that a short burst of exercise, like HIIT, before a meal can help manage after-meal blood sugars. “In those with insulin resistance, both the timing and intensity of exercise are important and can be used to control blood glucose,” says Monique Francois, MPhEd, of the University of Otago in New Zealand. "Moderate- [to]low-intensity exercise may not be a big enough stimulus to improve blood glucose control, especially if the rest of the day is spent sedentary."

Diabetes in Control says, “The results showed that intense short bursts of exercise before meals can lower the postprandial blood glucose responses to meals, particularly before breakfast and dinner. It was concluded that, it doesn't matter whether it is walking up hill or resistance exercise, as long as the intensity is above what is normally done across the day.”

To learn more about exercise and diabetes:

Control Blood Sugar with Snack-Sized Exercise
How Morning Exercise Benefits Diabetes
Exercise Tips & Guidelines for Diabetics