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Low-volume high-intensity swim training is superior to high-volume low-intensity training in relation to insulin sensitivity and glucose control in inactive middle-aged women



We tested the hypothesis that low-volume high-intensity swimming has a larger impact on insulin sensitivity and glucose control than high-volume low-intensity swimming in inactive premenopausal women with mild hypertension.


Sixty-two untrained premenopausal women were randomised to an inactive control (n = 20; CON), a high-intensity low-volume (n = 21; HIT) or a low-intensity high-volume (n = 21; LIT) training group. During the 15-week intervention period, HIT performed 3 weekly 6–10 × 30-s all-out swimming intervals (average heart rate (HR) = 86 ± 3 % HRmax) interspersed by 2-min recovery periods and LIT swam continuously for 1 h at low intensity (average HR = 73 ± 3 % HRmax). Fasting blood samples were taken and an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) was conducted pre- and post-intervention.


After HIT, resting plasma [insulin] was lowered (17 ± 34 %; P < 0.05) but remained similar after LIT and CON. Following HIT, 60-min OGTT plasma [insulin] and [glucose] was lowered (24 ± 30 % and 10 ± 16 %; P < 0.05) but remained similar after LIT and CON. Total area under the curve for plasma [glucose] was lower (P < 0.05) after HIT than LIT (660 ± 141 vs. 860 ± 325 mmol min L−1). Insulin sensitivity (HOMA-IR) had increased (P < 0.05) by 22 ± 34 % after HIT, with no significant change after LIT or CON, respectively. Plasma soluble intracellular cell adhesion molecule 1 was lowered (P < 0.05) by 4 ± 8 and 3 ± 9 % after HIT and CON, respectively, while plasma soluble vascular cell adhesion molecule 1 had decreased (P < 0.05) by 8 ± 23 % after HIT only.


These findings suggest that low-volume high-intensity intermittent swimming is an effective and time-efficient training strategy for improving insulin sensitivity, glucose control and biomarkers of vascular function in inactive, middle-aged mildly hypertensive women.

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Analysis of variance




High-intensity training


Homeostatic model assessment of insulin resistance


Heart rate


Oral glucose tolerance test


Low-intensity training


Standard error of the mean


Soluble intracellular cell adhesion molecule 1


Soluble vascular cell adhesion molecule 1


Type 2 diabetes mellitus


Total area under the curve


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The authors would like to express their appreciation for the outstanding efforts and positive attitude of the participants. In addition, they are extremely grateful for the professional assistance given by swimming coaches Remi Lamhauge, Brynhild Klein, Pauli Øssursson Mohr, Heini Rasmussen, Oluffa á Høvdanum, and the late Jákup Mohr, and for the technical support provided by Ivy Hansen, Gunnrið Jóannesarson, Guðrið Andórsdóttir, Hergerð Joensen, Ann Østerø, Ebba Andreassen, Maud av Fløtum, Liljan av Fløtum Petersen, Marjun Thomsen, Annika Lindenskov, Jann Mortensen, David Childs, Sarah R. Jackman and Jens Jung Nielsen. The study was supported by a Grant from the Faroese Research Council, as well as by The Faroese Confederation of Sports and Olympic Committee (Ítróttarsamband Føroya), and the Danish Sports Confederation (Danmarks Idrætsforbund). In addition, financial support was obtained from Eik Bank.

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Correspondence to Magni Mohr.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Communicated by Michael Lindinger.

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Connolly, L.J., Nordsborg, N.B., Nyberg, M. et al. Low-volume high-intensity swim training is superior to high-volume low-intensity training in relation to insulin sensitivity and glucose control in inactive middle-aged women. Eur J Appl Physiol 116, 1889–1897 (2016).

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  • Blood glucose
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Body composition
  • Upper body exercise
  • Metabolic health