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.


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.

Learn more about the health and medical experts who who provide you with the cutting-edge resources, tools, news, and more on Diabetes Self-Management.
About Our Experts >>

  • tmana

    There’s a certain amount of common sense to this: most folk eat dinner/supper/evening meal as their largest meal of the day. All macronutrients break down to carbohydrate at some part of the digestion process. So there’s like to be a spike and a “backlog” of nutrients to process. Exercise requires caloric expenditure beyond basic metabolism and therefore (1) draws off some dinner calories before they are stored as fat while (2) improving insulin sensitivity (known effect of exercise).

  • Eva

    Aerobic exercise certainly does decrease blood glucose level. Do the results of your tests apply to those with Type 1 Diabetes?

  • D. Hanson

    I have difficulty with the validity of the results of a study consisting of only 12 participants over a period of 3 days. Not statistically meaningful.

  • E. Ferguson

    I can attest to the validity of this idea. I have been walking after dinner for nearly twenty-five years. My blood sugars are higher on the days that I do not walk. Many people, including doctors, told me to walk any time of day and it will help. Not really. It has to be after dinner.

  • Philip Smith

    This morning I tested my blood glucose 2 hours after breakfast. The value was 143mg/dl. I then went out for my morning walk {45-50 mins} and tested again.The result was 79 mg/dl.

    Now I shall try out the same procedure for evening meal.

  • jim snell

    I am not sure what the aspect of timing is or does.

    The real key I find is to be sure one gets sufficient exercise to get the glucose stored in the skeletal muscles temporary glucose storage burned off – always making room to store more.

    If you do not burn the stuff off, it builds up there, insulin resistance goes up and your numbers drift up as the glucose backs up in your blood system.

    As long as one keeps room in the skeletal muscles temporary glucose storage, these cells remain sensitive to insulin to store more glucose on command of that insulin.

  • kfleming

    I’ve been using 15min exercise after meals now for a while to decrease BS. They go down about 70-90 points.
    I use this instead of taking glyburide now that I’m off my insulin.
    Obviously the glucose goes out of the blood stream and hopefully into the muscle cells during exercise. My problem like others, is we lack sensitivity to insulin and exercise seems to increase the transportation of glucose into the muscle cells where it is helpful and not stored as fat and thus making us more insensitive. Do I have this right?

    It doesn’t take much exercise (15mins of aerobic movement) which is more than just walking. I’d rather do exercise than medication.
    thanks for the study and article. More people should try moving more after meals and make their own study.