Wondering how to lower blood sugar if you have Type 2 diabetes? Take a short walk right after your meals, say researchers from the University of Otago in New Zealand. An estimated 29 million people in the United States (approximately 9% of the population) and 250,000 people in New Zealand (roughly 5% of the population) are living with Type 2 diabetes.
Regular physical activity is critical for managing diabetes. To determine whether walking at a specific time relative to meals could increase the benefits of exercise on blood sugar levels, the researchers worked with 41 people with Type 2 diabetes from 18–75 years of age. The participants were randomly assigned to a group either taking a 30-minute walk each day or taking a 10-minute walk after every meal each day for 14 days. At the end of this time frame, the subjects took a 30-day break, then were assigned to the other group. The investigators used an exercise monitor to collect activity information from the participants during waking hours, and food composition tables were used to assess the dietary information the subjects provided in food diaries. Blood sugar levels were measured with fasting blood samples, blood glucose meters, and continuous glucose monitors.
The researchers found that when the participants walked for 10 minutes after each meal, their blood sugar levels were an average of 12% lower than when they took a single 30-minute walk each day. Taking a short walk after dinner showed the greatest benefit on blood glucose, particularly when the meal contained a lot of carbohydrate, lowering blood sugar levels by 22% compared to taking a single daily walk.
“The improvement was particularly striking after the evening meal when the most carbohydrate was consumed and sedentary behaviors were highest,” the researchers note. “The benefits relating to physical activity following meals suggest that current guidelines should be amended to specify postmeal activity, particularly when meals contain a substantial amount of carbohydrate.”
Taking short walks after meals might decrease the need for additional insulin to keep blood sugar levels down after eating, the researchers add. They are conducting further research to determine what factors can help motivate people to follow a regular walking prescription.
For more information, see the article “A 10-Minute Walk After a Meal ‘Good for Diabetes'” or the study’s abstract in the journal Diabetologia. And to learn more about how to lower blood sugar after meals, read “Strike the Spike II: Dealing With High Blood Sugar After Meals.”
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Diane Fennell: Diane Fennell has been an editor at Diabetes Self-Management magazine since 2003. She is currently the Editorial Director. (Diane Fennell is not a medical professional.)
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