Three minutes of activity every 30 minutes has significantly beneficial effects on levels of blood glucose, insulin and triglycerides for people with type 2 diabetes according to a new study from researchers in Melbourne, Australia.

Many clinical studies have shown long periods of sitting to be linked with poor metabolic health. The study by the Australian researchers tested what effect short 3-minute periods of exercise would have if carried out every 30 minutes during eight-hour periods.

24 overweight or obese adults (14 men and 10 women) with type 2 diabetes and aged between 56 and 68 years old took part in the study. The participants were tested for eight hours on three separate days. There was a 6 to 14-day washout period between each tested session to ensure the effects were not being carried over from one session to the next.

The three sessions that each participant undertook included:

  • One session of uninterrupted sitting
  • One session of light-intensity walking
  • One session of simple resistance activities that included half-squats, calf raises, gluteal contractions, and knee raises

Throughout the eight-hour sessions, the researchers took measurements of levels of glucose, insulin, C-peptide and triglycerides.

The results showed that both the walking and resistance exercise activities reduced levels of glucose, insulin and c-peptide, with resistance exercise having a slightly more pronounced effect of the interventions.

The results for triglyceride levels showed that resistance exercises significantly reduced these levels compared with continuous sitting. Walking reduced triglyceride levels but not to a statistically significant degree.

The researchers conclude that with people finding it difficult to adhere to structured exercise, breaking up period of inactivity with short three-minute sessions of exercise could be potentially beneficial and practical.