Why You Should Walk for Health and Diabetes

Walking helps manage diabetes and prevents heart disease. It’s good for your social life and makes communities safer and more pleasant. And 10 minutes at a time is enough.

Diane Fennell posted here last month about a new study from New Zealand that found that 10 minutes of walking after meals lowers blood sugar levels by an average of 12%, and after dinner lowers by sugar levels of 22%, compared to taking a single 30-minute walk daily.

Advertisement

It was the timing of the walk that counted, not the distance. A 30-minute walk once a day was much less helpful than 10 minutes after each meal. In fact, walking just 100 steps after a meal might help reduce blood glucose levels.

The big thing is: Don’t sit there and go to sleep or back to the computer after you eat. Move.

The benefits go well beyond glucose control. An article posted on the site Healthy Food House documented five other benefits of walking after dinner. Note how these benefits address common diabetes problems.

• Faster metabolism
• Lower triglycerides (a type of blood fat)
• Better digestion — less heartburn and indigestion
• Better sleep and improved circulation
• Improved weight control

Social benefits
Walking together is a great time to reconnect with your partner after a hard day. You can get away from the rest of the family and discuss house issues as you walk. Even if you’re walking alone, though, you will meet other people to visit with.

The community also benefits from your walking. The British site Ramblers gives several ways walking makes a neighborhood better:

• Those in neighborhoods where people walk typically have 3–4 times as many local friends as those on streets with heavy traffic, where residents don’t walk as much.

• Walking “helps local residents take ownership of their streets.” It reduces crime because people know they might be seen — the “eyes on the street” effect.

• Walkable surroundings facilitate social interaction, play, relaxation, discovery, and enjoyment.

Barriers to walking
People would walk more if the world was set up for it, but the modern world isn’t. Things that get in the way include:

Loneliness. Most people want someone to walk with. If you don’t have a partner, you could benefit from walking with a neighborhood friend. Is there a neighbor you could ask?

If there’s no person to walk with, do you have a dog, or can you get one? We’ve documented before the diabetes benefits of dogs.

Time. People feel too busy to take time for getting dressed, heading out, and spending time on themselves. But I really wonder what they think our lives are for. Won’t those dishes still be in the sink when we get back? Maybe you could combine your walk with an errand to a local store or something.

Weather. Wintertime is coming on, bringing dark, cold, and/or wet streets that make walking more difficult. In cold weather, you have to dress warmly, with multiple layers and warm socks and shoes.

You can see examples of the kinds of clothes to wear here. If they seem too expensive, note what you want and buy them used in a thrift store, or on Craigslist or eBay.

The website Verywell advises, “If you must walk on ice or snow, use cleats and walking poles.” And “If it is windy, try to arrange your route so you are walking into the wind outbound and returning with the wind at your back.”

Rain doesn’t have to stop walking either. Verywell says wear waterproof boots or shoes, heavy socks, slickers, and carry an umbrella. Look for umbrellas that are wind tested and strengthened. Lightweight, compact umbrellas may be best.

Safety. If you live in a high-crime neighborhood, you might be afraid to walk after dark, especially alone. Traffic might also be a problem. You’ll be safer and make the streets safer if you walk with more people, with a dog, or with a strong umbrella for fending off dogs or unwanted people.

Light-colored clothes and an umbrella with reflective tape can make you more visible. You could also ask your local government for brighter lights or better traffic control, if those are issues.

The benefits of walking for body and mind are so great, I really regret that I can’t walk. But I’ll be out there with you in spirit. Do it safely, do it socially, keep warm, and watch your health and mood improve!

After several days with his new CGM, Scott Coulter can say a few things definitively. Bookmark DiabetesSelfManagement.com and tune in tomorrow to learn more.