Exercise training is effective for improving physical fitness and physical function in patients with type 2 diabetes. However, limited research has been conducted on the ideal exercise training intensity for this population. This study aimed to examine the effect of moderate versus high intensity exercise training on physical fitness and physical function in people with type 2 diabetes. Patients Twenty-one people with type 2 diabetes were allocated at random to receive either moderate intensity training (MOD group) or high intensity training (HIGH group). Interventions The MOD group performed resistance training at an intensity of 75% of the 8-repetition maximum (8-RM) and aerobic training at an intensity of 30% – 45% of heart rate reserve (HRR). The HIGH group performed resistance training at an intensity of 100% of the 8-RM and aerobic training at an intensity of 50 – 65% of HRR. Muscle strength (peak torque [Newton-meters]), exercise capacity (graded exercise test duration [minutes]), and physical function (Patient-Specific Functional Scale questionnaire) were measured at baseline and three months. Acute exercise-induced glucose changes were assessed before, immediately after, and 1-hour post-exercise during the first exercise training session. While both groups improved in physical fitness and physical function, the between-group effect sizes were not statistically significant (exercise capacity estimated marginal mean [EMM] difference = 2.1, 95% confidence interval [CI] = -0.2 – 4.5, muscle strength EMM difference = 20.8, 95% CI = -23.3 – 65.0, physical function EMM difference = 0.1, 95% CI = -0.6 – 0.9). Mean percent changes in glucose between pre- and post-exercise, post- and 1-hour post-exercise, and pre- and 1-hour post-exercise for the MOD group were – 11.4%, – 5.0%, and – 15.8%, respectively, and for the HIGH group were – 21.5%, 7.9%, and – 15.3%, respectively.
Moderate and high intensity exercise training, as defined in this study, could similarly improve physical fitness and physical function in people with type 2 diabetes.