Timing Exercise for Maximum Blood Glucose Control

A study recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Directors Association indicates that engaging in moderate physical activity after an evening meal is more effective at controlling postprandial (after-meal) blood glucose levels in people with Type 2 diabetes than engaging in the same activity before the meal.

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The researchers, out of Old Dominion University, looked at six men and six women with Type 2 diabetes and an average age of roughly 60. Each was being treated with either diet alone or with a combination of diet and oral medicines.

The study involved serving the participants a standardized dinner on each of three days. On separate days over the course of the trial period, the after-meal blood glucose effects of no exercise, 20 minutes of self-paced walking on a treadmill immediately before the meal, and 20 minutes of the same activity 15–20 minutes after the meal were evaluated in each person.

Blood glucose patterns were determined by blood samples drawn at 30-minute intervals for a 4-hour period before and after the dinner and physical activity. The data showed that walking after the meals stabilized blood glucose levels and resulted in less of a postmeal blood glucose rise than walking prior to dinner.

The investigators note that engaging in physical activity at any time of day is likely to improve overall blood glucose control. As this research demonstrates, however, the short-term effect of exercise on blood glucose levels may depend on the timing of the exercise. Based on the findings, the study’s authors advise older people with diabetes “to undertake aerobic exercise after meals, including the evening one, to… reduce the likelihood of negative health consequences associated with postprandial glucose excursions.”

For more information, read the article “Walking After Dinner More Effective Than Pre-Dinner Exercise in Type 2’s,” or see the study on the Web site of the Journal of the American Medical Directors Association.

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