Functional high-intensity training improves pancreatic β-cell function in adults with type 2 diabetes

Stephan Nieuwoudt, Ciarán E. Fealy, Julie A. Foucher, Amanda R. Scelsi, Steven K. Malin, Mangesh Pagadala, Michael Rocco, Bartolome Burguera, John P. Kirwan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Type 2 diabetes (T2D) is characterized by reductions in β-cell function and insulin secretion on the background of elevated insulin resistance. Aerobic exercise has been shown to improve β-cell function, despite a subset of T2D patients displaying “exercise resistance.” Further investigations into the effectiveness of alternate forms of exercise on β-cell function in the T2D patient population are needed. We examined the effect of a novel, 6-wk CrossFit functional high-intensity training (F-HIT) intervention on β-cell function in 12 sedentary adults with clinically diagnosed T2D (54 ± 2 yr, 166 ± 16 mg/dl fasting glucose). Supervised training was completed 3 days/wk, comprising functional movements performed at a high intensity in a variety of 10-to 20-min sessions. All subjects completed an oral glucose tolerance test and anthropometric measures at baseline and following the intervention. The mean disposition index, a validated measure of β-cell function, was significantly increased (PRE: 8.4 ± 3.1, POST: 11.5 ± 3.5, P = 0.02) after the intervention. Insulin processing inefficiency in the β-cell, expressed as the fasting proinsulin-toinsulin ratio, was also reduced (PRE: 2.40 ± 0.37, POST: 1.78 ± 0.30, P = 0.04). Increased β-cell function during the early-phase response to glucose correlated significantly with reductions in abdominal body fat (R2 = 0.56, P = 0.005) and fasting plasma alkaline phosphatase (R2 = 0.55, P = 0.006). Mean total body-fat percentage decreased significantly (Δ: -1.17 0.30%, P = 0.003), whereas lean body mass was preserved (Δ: +0.05 + 0.68 kg, P = 0.94). We conclude that F-HIT is an effective exercise strategy for improving β-cell function in adults with T2D.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E314-E320
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2017
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


  • Exercise
  • Insulin secretion
  • Obesity
  • Pancreas
  • Type 2 diabetes


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