Standing, Walking Breaks Linked With Lower Blood Sugar Levels All Day

Breaking up periods of sitting with standing or light activities such as slow walking or slow cycling can lower blood sugar levels all day in people who are overweight or obese, according to a small new study from Arizona State University. More than two-thirds of American adults are living with overweight or obesity.

Previous research has indicated that including light activity breaks throughout the day can have a variety of health benefits, from lowering blood pressure in people with Type 2 diabetes to reducing after-meal blood sugar.

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To evaluate the effects of periodic breaks of standing, slow walking, or slow cycling on blood sugar levels over a 24-hour period compared to sitting, researchers worked with nine overweight or obese adults. The participants wore continuous glucose monitors and blood pressure monitors during their standard 8-hour workday and, for the first week, did not make any changes to their typical routine. For the second week, the subjects stood for periods of 10 to 30 minutes during the day, for a total of two-and-a-half hours daily. The third week, they walked at a treadmill desk at one mile per hour for the same time frame, and the fourth week, they cycled very slowly on a stationary bike during the activity periods.

Their average blood sugar levels were found to be lower on the standing, walking, and cycling days compared to sitting days, and lowest after cycling. After-meal blood sugar levels were reduced, and on cycling days, blood sugar levels remained lower overnight.

“We found that the overall reduction in blood sugar throughout the 24-hour day was typically 5% to 12%, with the greatest effect being in cycling,” said senior study author Glenn A. Gaesser, PhD, in an e-mail to Reuters Health. “Studies with larger groups would be needed before we could say these findings would apply to overweight people in general,” but it’s more likely that those who are overweight or have prediabetes would benefits more than those at target weight.

For more information, see the article “Briefly Standing, Or Being Active, Reduces Blood Sugar Across the Day” or the study’s abstract in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. And to learn more about improving your health through movement, read “Picking the Right Activity to Meet Your Fitness Goals.”

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  • How many hours per week would I have to walk to lower my blood sugar?