Can Resistance Interval Training Improve Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes?

Resistance Interval Exercise and Type 2 Diabetes

Resistance interval exercise has been shown to improve blood vessel function in those with type 2 diabetes.

As I’ve discussed before in blogs, type 2 diabetes is becoming more and more of an issue within the UK.

The NHS spend a staggering 10% of their budget for England and Wales on diabetes, which equates to over £25,000 being spent on diabetes every minute.

It is estimated that £14 billion pounds is spent a year due to the treatment of diabetes and the complications associated with it (Diabetes UK, 2016a).

Type 2 diabetes was previously known as ‘adult-onset diabetes’, as it was not found within children and only usually developed in those over 40. However, now we are finding that children are even being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes which you can read more about here.

It is becoming more and more common, with it being estimated that type 2 diabetes accounts for around 90% of all diabetes cases worldwide (Diabetes UK, 2016b).

It is believed that obesity is accountable for nearly 80-85% of the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and those who are obese (that’s those with a BMI of 30 and over), are up to 80 times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, than those with a BMI below 22 (Diabetes UK, 2016c).

Globally it has been found that 80% of those who were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, were overweight or obese (Diabetes Org UK, 2009).

Diabetes is associated with a whole host of health implications which include, heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, eye disease, and nerve damage which you can read more about in my previous blog on the prevention of type 2 diabetes here.

Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease

If you have diabetes you are up to 5 times more likely to develop heart disease or have a stroke (NHS, 2016).

Endothelial cells line every blood vessel found within our body, separating the blood from the blood vessels. One of the functions of endothelial cells is to help regulate the dilating and contracting of the vessel - it helps to control our blood vessel function.

Type 2 diabetes can impact how well our blood vessels function. However, a recent study found that when those with type 2 diabetes took part in one single session of resistance based interval exercise, which was for 7 X 1 minute intervals using leg resistance exercises, with 1 minute rest in between. They then looked at flow-mediated dilation at baseline: immediately, then 1 hour and 2 hours after exercise. They found that endothelial function (blood vessel function) was improved throughout the 2-hour post exercise period after resistance based interval exercise in comparison to cardio interval exercise, and seated control (Francois et al., 2016).

It was concluded that further research was needed to investigate the long term effect using interval exercises, however it appears that it can have a beneficial impact on how well our blood vessels function, which is something that can be impacted in those with type 2 diabetes.

Resistance Training

Resistance training is exercising which uses weight and it’s where the muscles are having to work against an external resistance. The weight can come from your own body, dumbbells, kettle bell, barbells, or even weighted machines.

The National Diabetes Prevention Programme

For the programme I am working on, the National Diabetes Prevention Programme, we are trying to help people increase their physical activity and get them to look at their diets and whether anything may be impacting and increasing their risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

To help get them on the road to making small changes we carry out one to one assessments where we work with them individually, on goals they want to achieve. The other part of the programme is the groups sessions which involves discussions based around nutrition, and then group sessions where they undergo physical activity.

If you want to read more about the programme and how it’s been going, you can see my first blog on it here.

The programme is running pretty smoothly. As with any fairly new programme, it is still being developed and modified to enable it to run as best as it can.  We’re now running the groups, which have been good fun, and hopefully those on the programme are finding it useful!

What we do a lot of, is goal setting. The aim is to do small goals, which can be incorporated into day to day life and not drastic changes which may not last.

Goal Setting

Throughout the programme, we try to enable individuals to make their own decisions around what they want to change within their diet and through physical activity. It’s all fine and well being told what we need to do, but as our own person we need to decide what we want to do with the information provided. That way its more sustainable and specific to you, instead of the concept of one size fits all, which in all honesty, doesn’t take into account individual needs. One thing that may work for someone, may not work for someone else.

If you are making changes to your lifestyle, there may be a few trial and errors. I recommend setting goals and write them down: 

    • Don’t make them unachievable, keep them so that they’re just small steps, see what works, and note down what doesn’t.
    • If something didn’t work, why didn’t it? What do you think would help you?
    • If something worked, what helped you to achieve it? 
    • It’s all about, in some ways, keeping a diary so that you can keep track of what you are doing, and then it’s always there for you to see. 

If one week goes badly don’t beat yourself up and give up, look at what caused you to go off track and see if you need to alter your goal a bit.

What I mean by not making goals unachievable, is for example, if you don’t do any physical activity at all, slowly build up from 0 days/week to 5 days/week. If you start straight away with 0 to 5 days and then one week only manage to do a couple of days you may think “well I’ve failed this, so I’m just not going to bother now” which is what we don’t want!

So, start with trying to exercise once a week, make it into a part of your weekly routine. This doesn’t mean that you’re restricted to doing it once a week, but that’s your goal, to go to the gym/exercise at least once. If you go more than once, then great! That’s good and you’ll feel like you’ve accomplished something but if you only go once, you’re not going to be so hard on yourself.

Sorry if I’ve gone off on a bit of a tangent here but if you’re interested in setting your own goals, I’d recommend it, get yourself a notebook, and look at SMART goals and enjoy!


As I’m sure you’re all used to hearing, a balanced, healthy diet and making sure you are taking part in physical activity are both integral to maintaining and improving our health.

If you, or someone you know, has either pre-diabetes, type 2 diabetes or type 1 diabetes, or even just interested in the impact diabetes has on our body, and what you can do to help reduce your risk, the website is filled with really interesting information. It’s really informative and relevant for everyone really! You can click on the link above or here.

It’s always great to mix up the physical exercise we take part it, not just for our body but it also keeps us interested in what we’re doing.

Daisy, MSc PGDip ANutr, is a Registered Associate Nutritionist with a Master's Degree in Public Health Nutrition, and a Post Graduate Diploma in Eating Disorders and Clinical Nutrition, both of which are Association for Nutrition (AFN) accredited. She, also, has a BSc degree in Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience; and has completed an AFN accredited Diet Specialist Nutrition course.

Daisy has worked for an NHS funded project, the Diabetes Prevention Programme; and shadowed a nutritionist in Harley Street. 

About Lucy Bee Limited

Any information provided by us is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease. We always recommend referring your health queries to a qualified medical practitioner.

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Diabetes Org UK. (2009). Diabetes and Obesity Rates Soar. Available here.

Diabetes UK. (2016a). Cost of Diabetes. Available here.

Diabetes UK. (2016). Type 2 Diabetes. Available here.

Diabetes UK. (2016c). Diabetes and Obesity. Available here.

Francois, ME. Durrer, C. Pistawka, KJ. Halperin, FA. And Little, JP. (2016). Resistance-based interval exercise acutely improves endothelial function in type 2 diabetes. The American Journal of Physiology – Heart and Circulatory Physiology,  311(5). Available here.

NHS. (2016). Type 2 diabetes- Complications. Available here.

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