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High-intensity aerobic interval training improves aerobic fitness and HbA1c among persons diagnosed with type 2 diabetes



It remains to be established how high-intensity aerobic interval training (HAIT) affects risk factors associated with type 2 diabetes (TD2). This study investigated effects of HAIT on maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max), glycated Hemoglobin type A1C (HbA1c), insulin resistance (IR), fat oxidation (FatOx), body weight (BW), percent body fat (%BF), lactate threshold (LT), blood pressure (BP), and blood lipid profile (BLP) among persons with T2D. Results were compared to the effects after a moderate-intensity training (MIT) program.


Thirty-eight individuals with T2D completed 12 weeks of supervised training. HAIT consisted of 4 × 4 min of walking or running uphill at 85–95% of maximal heart rate, and MIT consisted of continuous walking at 70–75% of maximal heart rate.


A 21% increase in VO2max (from 25.6 to 30.9 ml kg−1 min−1, p < 0.001), and a reduction in HbA1c by −0.58% points (from 7.78 to 7.20%, p < 0.001) was found in HAIT. BW and body mass index (BMI) was reduced by 1.9% (p < 0.01). There was a tendency towards an improved FatOx at 60% VO2max (14%, p = 0.065). These improvements were significant different from MIT. Both HAIT and MIT increased velocity at LT, and reduced %BF, waist circumference, hip circumference, and BP, with no significant differences between the two groups. Correlations were found between change in VO2max and change in HbA1c when the two intervention groups were combined (R = −0.52, p < 0.01).


HAIT is an effective exercise strategy to improve aerobic fitness and reduce risk factors associated with T2D.

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Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3



Percent body fat


Blood glucose


Body mass index


Blood pressure


Blood lipid profile


Body weight




Cardiorespiratory fitness


Coefficient of variance


Cardiovascular disease


Fat oxidation


Glycemic index


High-intensity aerobic interval training


Glycated hemoglobin type A1C


Homeostasis model of assessment for insulin resistance index

HRmax :

Maximal heart rate

HRpeak :

Peak heart rate


Kilo calories


Kilo joules

[La]b :

Blood lactate concentration


Moderate-intensity continuous training


Protein oxidation


Respiratory exchange ratio


Type 2 diabetes


Total energy intake

VCO2 :

Volume of carbon dioxide

VO2 :

Oxygen uptake

VO2max :

Maximal oxygen uptake


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We want to acknowledge the cooperation with Mid-Telemark Health Community (Midt-Telemarkraadet) in this project. A special thanks to Jørund Verpe for contributing in the planning phase of the study, Kristin Bøen and Ingunn Stavsholt for assisting in the recruitment face of the project as well as conducting motivational conversations with the participants, and Hans Torvild Kittilsen for assisting during exercise testing.

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Correspondence to Eva Maria Støa.

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No external funding was received from any organizations in this project.

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Communicated by Anni Vanhatalo.

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Støa, E.M., Meling, S., Nyhus, LK. et al. High-intensity aerobic interval training improves aerobic fitness and HbA1c among persons diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Eur J Appl Physiol 117, 455–467 (2017).

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  • Exercise intensity
  • Interval training
  • Maximal oxygen uptake
  • HbA1c
  • Fat oxidation