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Walking Significantly Reduces After-Meal Glucose

Diane Fennell

September 14, 2012

We have previously discussed the benefits of walking for warding off diabetes. Now new research from the Mayo Clinic indicates that walking after meals can help lower postmeal glucose levels in people with and without diabetes alike.

As part of a larger study on after-meal glucose tolerance, researchers looked at 24 study participants, 12 of whom had Type 1 diabetes, and 12 of whom did not have diabetes. Over the course of three days and four nights, the researchers kept track of the participants in a controlled environment, noting their diet and calorie intake, monitoring their physical activity with devices known as triaxial accelerometers, and measuring their glucose levels with implantable continuous glucose monitors.

The participants walked after two of their daily meals and sat after a randomly chosen third meal. Walking was conducted in intervals in which participants walked for 33.5 minutes and sat for 26.5 minutes. Overall, they walked for a total of five to six hours and 3.5 to 4.2 miles in each 24-hour period.

At 4.5 hours after eating, people with diabetes had a glucose level 145% higher, on average, after inactivity than after walking. In people without diabetes, there was a roughly 113% increase at 4.5 hours after eating after inactivity compared to after walking. In general, walking began to affect glucose levels ten minutes after the exercise started and the benefits extended until five minutes after it had stopped; the improvement was roughly 30 mg/dl. Substituting other physical activities, such as hand-washing dishes, after meals might have the same blood glucose benefits, the researchers note.

According to lead study author Yogish Kudva, MD, MBBS, “Minimal activity sustained for 30 minutes (walking 0.7 miles in 33 minutes) lowers post-meal glucose concentrations. Such activity has little or no risk for almost everybody.”

For more information, read the article “Walking After Eating Lowers Glucose in Healthy People and Diabetes Patients,” or see the study’s abstract in Diabetes Care. And if you’d like more motivation to get walking, check out the article “Training for a Walkathon,” by professor of exercise physiology Werner W. K. Hoeger.

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