High Intensity Interval Training As A Novel Treatment For Impaired Awareness Of Hypoglycaemia In People With Type 1 Diabetes (Hit4hypos): a randomised parallel-group study

Catriona Farrell, Alison McNeilly, Simona Hapca, Paul Fournier, Timothy Jones, Andrea Facchinetti, Giacomo Cappon, Daniel West, Rory J. McCrimmon (Lead / Corresponding author)

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Aims/hypothesis: Impaired awareness of hypoglycaemia (IAH) in type 1 diabetes may develop through a process referred to as habituation. Consistent with this, a single bout of high intensity interval exercise as a novel stress stimulus improves counterregulatory responses (CRR) to next-day hypoglycaemia, referred to as dishabituation. This longitudinal pilot study investigated whether 4 weeks of high intensity interval training (HIIT) has sustained effects on counterregulatory and symptom responses to hypoglycaemia in adults with type 1 diabetes and IAH.

Methods: HIT4HYPOS was a single-centre, randomised, parallel-group study. Participants were identified using the Scottish Diabetes Research Network (SDRN) and from diabetes outpatient clinics in NHS Tayside, UK. The study took place at the Clinical Research Centre, Ninewells Hospital and Medical School, Dundee, UK. Participants were aged 18–55 years with type 1 diabetes of at least 5 years’ duration and HbA 1c levels <75 mmol/mol (<9%). They had IAH confirmed by a Gold score ≥4, modified Clarke score ≥4 or Dose Adjustment For Normal Eating [DAFNE] hypoglycaemia awareness rating of 2 or 3, and/or evidence of recurrent hypoglycaemia on flash glucose monitoring. Participants were randomly allocated using a web-based system to either 4 weeks of real-time continuous glucose monitoring (RT-CGM) or RT-CGM+HIIT. Participants and investigators were not masked to group assignment. The HIIT programme was performed for 20 min on a stationary exercise bike three times a week. Hyperinsulinaemic–hypoglycaemic (2.5 mmol/l) clamp studies with assessment of symptoms, hormones and cognitive function were performed at baseline and after 4 weeks of the study intervention. The predefined primary outcome was the difference in hypoglycaemia-induced adrenaline (epinephrine) responses from baseline following RT-CGM or RT-CGM+HIIT.

Results: Eighteen participants (nine men and nine women) with type 1 diabetes (median [IQR] duration 27 [18.75–32] years) and IAH were included, with nine participants randomised to each group. Data from all study participants were included in the analysis. During the 4 week intervention there were no significant mean (SEM) differences between RT-CGM and RT-CGM+HIIT in exposure to level 1 (28 [7] vs 22 [4] episodes, p=0.45) or level 2 (9 [3] vs 4 [1] episodes, p=0.29) hypoglycaemia. The CGM-derived mean glucose level, SD of glucose and glucose management indicator (GMI) did not differ between groups. During the hyperinsulinaemic–hypoglycaemic clamp studies, mean (SEM) change from baseline was greater for the noradrenergic responses (RT-CGM vs RT-CGM+HIIT: −988 [447] vs 514 [732] pmol/l, p=0.02) but not the adrenergic responses (–298 [687] vs 1130 [747] pmol/l, p=0.11) in those participants who had undergone RT-CGM+HIIT. There was a benefit of RT-CGM+HIIT for mean (SEM) change from baseline in the glucagon CRR to hypoglycaemia (RT-CGM vs RT-CGM+HIIT: 1 [4] vs 16 [6] ng/l, p=0.01). Consistent with the hormone response, the mean (SEM) symptomatic response to hypoglycaemia (adjusted for baseline) was greater following RT-CGM+HIIT (RT-CGM vs RT-CGM+HIIT: −4 [2] vs 0 [2], p<0.05).

Conclusions/interpretation: In this pilot clinical trial in people with type 1 diabetes and IAH, we found continuing benefits of HIIT for overall hormonal and symptomatic CRR to subsequent hypoglycaemia. Our findings also suggest that HIIT may improve the glucagon response to insulin-induced hypoglycaemia.

Trial registration: ISRCTN15373978. Funding: Sir George Alberti Fellowship from Diabetes UK (CMF) and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Graphical Abstract: [Figure not available: see fulltext.].

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)392-402
Number of pages11
Early online date27 Nov 2023
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2024


  • Behaviour
  • Counter-regulation
  • Diabetes
  • Exercise
  • Habituation
  • Hypoglycaemia
  • impaired awareness


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