Genevieve Wilson carried out the study under the supervision of Dr Chris Baldi, with Gerry Wilkins as her co-advisor. Wilson explained that the study is significant because while researches till now have shown that improved glycemic control and lifestyle changes can improve some outcomes for people with diabetes, reductions in cardiovascular disease have not been found and cardiovascular disease remains to the leading cause of death in these patients.
"Our research has found that exercise at sufficiently high intensity may provide an inexpensive, practical way to reverse, or reduce the loss in heart function caused by type 2 diabetes," Wilson added.
HIIT involves short intervals of near maximal effort exercise like sprinting or stair climbing, separated by intervals of moderate intensity exercise, like jogging, or fast walking.
The goal was for people to spend 10 minutes doing very vigorous activity during a 25-minute workout session.
Dr Baldi said that the incidence of type 2 diabetes continues to increase and the prolonged management of the disease is crippling healthcare systems worldwide.
Increasing aerobic capacity through exercise is arguably the best prevention for heart disease and exercise is a cornerstone of diabetic treatment. However, the impaired function of the diabetic heart often makes it harder for people with diabetes to exercise effectively and it was not known whether they would train this hard.
However, the study showed that the high-intensity exercise programme for middle-aged adults with type 2 diabetes was safe and acceptable and also well-attended, with a greater than 80 per cent adherence rate over the three months.
"There are two important clinical implications of this work. The first, that adults with type 2 diabetes will adhere to high-intensity interval training and are capable of comparable increases in aerobic capacity and left ventricular exercise response as those reported in non-diabetic adults," Dr Baldi explained.
"Secondly, high-intensity exercise is capable of reversing some of the changes in heart function that seem to precede diabetic heart disease," he added.