Fitness Articles

Information to help lose fat and build muscle for life.

Lose fat and build muscle

HIIT Training


Have you recently carried heavy shopping bags up a few flights of stairs? Or run the last 100 meters to the station to catch your train? If you have, you may have unknowingly been doing a style of exercise called high intensity incidental physical activity. This is also known as High Intensity Interval Training.

paper, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, shows how this type of regular, incidental activity that gets you huffing and puffing is likely to produce health benefits, even if you do it in 30-second bursts, spread over the day.

In fact, incorporating more high-intensity activity into our daily routines — whether that’s by vacuuming the carpet with vigor or walking uphill to buy your lunch — could be the key to helping all of us get some high-quality exercise each day. And that includes people who are overweight and unfit.

See also: The Bare Minimum of Exercise Needed for a Brain Boost Is Very Reasonable


Until recently, most health authorities prescribed activity lasting for at least 10 continuous minutes, although there was no credible scientific evidence behind this.

This recommendation was refuted by the 2018 US Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Report. The new guidelines state any movement matters for health, no matter how long it lasts.

This appreciation for short episodes of physical activity aligns with the core principles of high intensity interval training (HIIT). HIIT is a hugely popular regimen involving repeated short sessions, from six seconds to four minutes, with rests from 30 seconds to four minutes in between.

Among a range of different regimens, we consistently see that any type of high intensity interval training, irrespective of the number of repetitions, boosts fitness rapidly and improves cardiovascular health and fitness.

That’s because when we regularly repeat even short bursts of strenuous exercise, we instruct our bodies to adapt (in other words, to get fitter) so we’re able to respond better to the physical demands of life (or the next time we exercise strenuously).

The same principle is at play with incidental physical activities. Even brief sessions of 20 seconds of stair-climbing (60 steps) repeated three times a day on three days per week over six weeks can lead to measurable improvements in cardiorespiratory fitness. This type of fitness indicates how well the lungs, heart, and circulatory systems are working, and the higher it is, the lower the risk for future heart disease is.

In fact, research suggests physical activity intensity may be more important for the long-term health of middle-aged and older people than total duration.


The main reasons people don’t do enough exercise tend to include the cost, lack of time, skills, and motivation.

Exercise regimens like high intensity interval training are safe and effective ways to boost fitness, but they’re often impractical. People with chronic conditions and most middle-aged and older people, for example, will likely require supervision by a fitness professional.

Walking to and from the supermarket is a good option if it’s not too far.

Aside from the practicalities, some people may find back-to-back bouts of very high exertion overwhelming and unpleasant.

See also: Body Clock Scientist Determines What Time to Exercise to Boost Alertness

But there are plenty of free and accessible ways to incorporate incidental physical activity into our routines, including:

  • Replacing short car trips with fast walking or cycling if it’s safe
  • Walking up the stairs at a fast pace
  • Leaving the car at the edge of the shopping center parking lot and carrying the shopping bags for 100m
  • Doing three or four “walking sprints” during longer stretches of walking by stepping up your pace for 100-200 meters (until you feel your heart rate is increasing and you find yourself out of breath to the point that you find it hard to speak)
  • Vigorous walking at a pace of about 130-140 steps per minute
  • Looking for opportunities to walk uphill
  • Taking your dog to an off-leash area and jogging for 30-90 seconds alongside your pup

This type of incidental activity can make it easier to achieve the recommended 30 minutes of physical activity a day. It can also help boost fitness and make strenuous activity feel easier — even for those of us who are the least fit.

Why You Should Be Lifting Weights if You Have Type 2 Diabetes

Weight training can help lower your blood sugar and potentially reduce your risk for health complications, among other health benefits. Here’s how to get started.

K. Aleisha Fetters

By K. Aleisha Fetters

Medically Reviewed by Lynn Grieger, RDN, CDCES

Reviewed: October 15, 2020

No one’s disputing the benefits of regular aerobic exercise for diabetes management. Running, walking, swimming, and biking can all help you keep your blood sugar level in check while boosting your overall health.

But now scientists are finding that people with diabetes can benefit from regular weight lifting, or strength training, as well. In fact, research in the Internal Journal of Cardiology shows that in people with type 2 diabetes, strength training can be more beneficial to blood sugar regulation than cardio,” says Audra Wilson, RD, CSCS, a bariatric dietitian and strength and conditioning specialist at the Northwestern Medicine Metabolic Health and Surgical Weight Loss Center at Delnor Hospital in Geneva, Illinois. That said, she points out that research in JAMA shows the best results come when strength training combines with aerobic exercise.

That’s why in a November 2016 position statement the American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommended that, in addition to performing at least 150 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity per week (or 75 minutes of high-intensity exercise), adults with type 2 diabetes strength train at least two or three times per week.

Before starting any new exercise routine, it’s important to talk with your doctor about any special considerations you need to make. Complications of type 2 diabetes, such as heart disease, peripheral neuropathydiabetic retinopathy, blood pressure issues, and osteoporosis, can influence which forms of exercise (and strength training) are healthiest for you, according to the ADA.

So what’s so great about weight lifting with type 2 diabetes?

Lifting Weights May Make Managing Type 2 Diabetes Easier

Diabetes is marked by the body’s inability to process glucose and use insulin efficiently, but strength training can help with those issues in various ways.

Burns Up Blood Sugar 

Strength training relies primarily on the body’s glycolytic, or glucose using, metabolic system for energy. “As we go through a strength-training workout, we use stored muscle glycogen for fuel,” explains Nick Occhipinti, CSCS, an exercise physiologist based in Red Bank, New Jersey. “Once this stored muscle glycogen runs out, we start to mobilize extra glycogen from the liver and from the blood. This helps to directly decrease blood glucose as well as deplete stored muscle and liver glycogen stores, giving blood glucose a place to go next time we eat.”

Improves Glucose Storage 

Your muscles serve as storage facilities for consumed sugar and carbohydrates. “Trained muscle has a higher capacity to store blood glucose in the form of glycogen, aiding in lowering blood glucose,” he says. That means lowered blood sugar levels and easier glucose management.

Spurs Weight Loss

In people carrying extra weight, losing 5 to 10 percent of your body weight can improve A1C scores, the two- to three-month average of blood sugar levels, according to John Hopkins Medicine. Apart from burning calories during your workouts, strength training promotes fat loss by increasing levels of lean muscle mass. “Muscle is one of the few metabolically active tissues in the body at total rest,” explains Occhipinti. “This means that even as we sit around and watch football or sit at a desk and work, the muscle we have on our body is serving to burn calories.”

Targets Harmful Belly Fat 

Abdominal fat, also called visceral fat because it resides in and around the body’s visceral organs, exacerbates insulin resistance and complicates blood sugar management, he says. He explains that, in addition to storing energy, visceral fat cells produce chemicals and hormones that inhibit the body’s effective use of insulin. Fortunately, high-intensity resistance training is effective (even more than cardiovascular exercise) at reducing visceral fat levels and managing blood sugar in people with insulin resistance, per the Internal Journal of Cardiology research.

Strength Training Helps Protect Against Diabetes Complications

By improving insulin health and lowering high blood sugar levels, strength training helps guard against some of the complications of type 2 diabetes. But it also takes on diabetes complications in other ways, too.

Improves Heart Health 

Type 2 diabetes is a leading risk factor in the development of heart disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fortunately, strength training increases levels of good cholesterol in the body while reducing bad levels, Occhipinti says. Research in the Journal of Human Hypertension shows it also helps lower hypertension, or high blood pressure.

Boosts Bone Density

While people with type 2 diabetes often have normal bone mineral density scores, they are at a heightened risk of bone fracture, according to a study published in January 2016 in the journal Bone. Weight-bearing strength training, especially performed from a standing position, builds strength in the bones of the legs, spine, and hips to reduce the risk of bone breaks, Wilson says.

Prevents Age-Related Muscle Loss

Building muscle through strength training directly combats the muscle loss that can occur through the decades. According to the ADA position statement, type 2 diabetes is an independent risk factor for accelerated declines in muscle strength. Research published online in January 2017 by PLoS One has linked severe age-related muscle degradation, called sarcopenia, to loss of physical function, cancer, and depression, and an increased risk of early death.

Reduces the Risk of Peripheral Neuropathy and Vision Loss 

“When we have chronically high blood sugar, glucose molecules start attaching themselves to everything, including our red blood cells. This can prevent healthy blood flow many places in the body where we have very small blood vessels,” Occhipinti says. It just so happens that the eyes and nerves of the hands and feet have these small vessels. When these areas don’t get the blood flow they need, peripheral neuropathy and diabetic retinopathy can result. Strength training improves blood flow to reduce the risk of these complications, Occhipinti explains.

6 Tips for Starting to Strength Train with Diabetes

The ADA suggests that people with type 2 diabetes engage in two or three strength-training sessions per week, on nonconsecutive days. Here are some strategies to help you get the most benefits from your strength-training sessions.

1. Talk to Your Healthcare Team

As with any exercise program, check with your healthcare team before starting a weight-training regimen. Especially important is to discuss is your blood sugar management. “People don’t typically associate strength training with low blood sugars, but some patients will have significant impacts on blood sugar with strength training,” Wilson says. Your doctor may recommend testing your blood sugar level before, during, and after exercise, as well as eating carbohydrates around workout time to prevent or address hypoglycemia, she says. 

2. Ask for Help 

“To gain more health benefits from physical activity programs, participation in supervised training is recommended over nonsupervised programs,” Wilson says. For some guidance, consider working out with a certified trainer or joining a weight-training class. These are offered both in person and online.

3. Focus on the Body’s Largest Muscle Groups

Work on your glutes, hamstrings, quads, lats, traps, and chest. Some of the best strength exercises to target such groups are compound, multijoint movements such as squats, lunges, dead lifts, hamstring curls, rows, lat pull-downs, chest presses, and push-ups, Occhipinti says.

4. Follow a Plan

Mapping out what you want your workouts to look like can help you make and keep a routine, Wilson says. If you plan to strength train two or three times per week, you’re better off making all of your workouts total-body ones. However, if your strength training is going to be more frequent, such as four or five days per week, alternating between upper- and lower-body workouts, or push and pull workouts, can help ensure that each muscle group still gets the recovery time it needs, she says. Every now and then, try new variations of your favorite exercise, or alter the number of sets or reps you are doing, to keep your workouts, and results, progressing.

5. Prioritize Recovery 

Giving yourself one, if not two, days in between working a given muscle group can help give it time to repair, Wilson says, while still training it with sufficient frequency to adapt and grow. Great options include foam rolling, stretching, and low-intensity cardio like walking or cycling.

6. Consider Multiple Tools

Yes, barbells, dumbbells, and weight machines can be useful strength-training tools, but they aren’t mandatory, Occhipinti says. Resistance bands, filled duffle bags, and other household items are effective in loading the muscles and are especially great for helping you get in more at-home workouts.