Background: The prevalence of early-onset type 2 diabetes (EOT2D, diagnosed with T2DM under the age 40) is increasing. There is limited research on the perceptions and knowledge about diabetes and its management. The aim of the study was to explore the insights on diabetes and exercise among this cohort.

Method: Twelve participants who underwent an 8-week, supervised, high-intensity intermittent training (HIIT) program were invited to participate in a semi-structured interview. The interview explored exercise history, perception of EOT2D, knowledge of EOT2D management and complications, feedback on HIIT, and barriers and facilitators to regular exercise. Inductive thematic analysis was used.

Results: Eight males and four females aged between 20-44 years were interviewed. Four themes emerged from analysis: (i) The diagnosis of T2DM was often unexpected. Participants reported the sense of “loss control” at diagnosis. This motivated people to exercise, but regular and structured exercise was rarely maintained: “didn’t continue after a few months.” (ii) Participants had varying levels of knowledge about diabetes, its management and complications: “⋯didn’t really understand how T2DM works and how exercise could affect it.” Most participants did not monitor blood glucose levels regularly: “monitoring sugar regularly to me is obsessive behaviour.” (iii) Financial and time commitments were the two most common barriers to exercise, especially for people with young children. (iv) HIIT was well-tolerated. Participants valued the individual supervision - “having the supervision gives you structure and a commitment.” However, participants were unlikely to continue with the HIIT program independently or unsupervised.

Clinical implication: Although diagnosis of EOT2D can be an impetus for behaviour change, diabetes management in this cohort was not prioritised over work and family commitments. Diabetes management and education in this young cohort needs to have tailored approaches.


Y. Gu: None. A. Harmer: None. J. Wong: Advisory Panel; Self; Sanofi. Speaker’s Bureau; Self; AstraZeneca, Merck & Co., Inc. A. Gauld: None. M.I. Constantino: None. P.A. Munoz: None. S. Dennis: None.


Diabetes Australia; Sydney Local Health District

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