Walking Reduces After-Meal Glucose Spikes

Strategies to reduce after-meal blood glucose spikes are among the most sought-after pieces of information on our Web site, as evidenced by the popularity of articles such as “Strike the Spike” and “Strike the Spike II.” Now, new research shows that short bouts of moderately intense walking can lower blood glucose levels after eating and improve 24-hour glucose control.


To compare the effectiveness of three 15-minute bouts of walking after meals to one 45-minute bout of walking for controlling blood glucose, researchers recruited inactive people age 60 or older who were at risk of impaired glucose tolerance based on their fasting blood glucose levels. Participants were given a basic screening, and over the next four weeks, underwent three study protocols in random order.

Each protocol consisted of a 24-hour control period, in which participants were asked to remain inactive in an experiment room, followed by a 24-hour period in which they walked on a treadmill at a moderate pace (an average of 3 miles per hour) for either 15 minutes after each meal, 45 minutes in the morning, or 45 minutes in the afternoon. On all of the study days, the participants gave a fasting glucose sample and glucose samples 30 minutes before and 30 minutes after meals, and they were hooked up to a continuous glucose monitor.

The researchers found that average glucose levels over 24 hours were significantly reduced by both the 15-minute postmeal walks and the 45-minute morning or afternoon walks. Glucose levels three hours after lunch were also lowered by all types of walks. Walking for 15 minutes after each meal, however, was significantly more effective at lowering glucose levels three hours after dinner.

According to Paul Thompson, MD, who was not involved in the research, “Exercise sensitizes you to insulin, so it helps with insulin disposal, but exercise also has an insulin-independent mechanism for glucose disposal… Physicians should not forget to recommend exercise for their patients with diabetes or prediabetes.”

Limitations of the study include its small size and its relatively healthy, self-selected group of participants.

For more information, read the article “Seniors Can Walk Off After-Meal Glucose Spikes” or see the study’s abstract in the journal Diabetes Care. And to learn more about reducing blood glucose spikes after meals, read the article “Strike the Spike II” by certified diabetes educator Gary Scheiner.

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  • JohnC

    Not that anybody should give up walking but I have found ‘restrictive’ exercise works at least 3 times better at lowering blood sugar.

    You don’t necessarily have to go and lift weights but washing the car or pushing a lawn mower around the yard works wonders. Even using small (5 or 10 lb) weights is good. Also found through this process that using your arms (resistance) has worked better than even a very long walk. Of course this is nothing new as it has been researched plenty.

  • Nasiru Abubakat

    Very interested article.Brisk walking for at leas 30 minute everyday play an effective role for lowering my BG.I strictly adhere to it.

  • Kathy

    do you do the 30 minutes all at once or get at least 30 minutes through out the day?

  • Kathleen

    I have been on a good exercise routine for the past 4 months. I try to go to the gym everyday, but rarely make all 7 days. I “walk” for about 45 min. then do weights either arms or legs or both. I also have been really cutting back on carbs. after reading some articles here. In 3 months time my AC1 which has been around 7.2 for a few years is now at 6.2. And I have lost weight which I had not been able to do before. I am VERY happy and motivated.

  • Ferne

    That’s great but not everyone can walk and I happen to be handicapped and can’t walk. These articles are discouraging to me.

  • Diane Fennell

    Hi Ferne,

    Please don’t be discouraged — any kind of movement you’re able to do is helpful. For some ideas, please check out the following pieces:

    Chair and Wheelchair Dancing

    Accessible Exercise and Recreation

    Diane Fennell
    Web Editor

  • Kay

    I love exercise. My problem is that I have Fibro & CFIDS and any exercise, even a trip to Costco, puts me in bed for days with extreme fatigue. Any suggestions?

  • Joe Teixeira

    I check my blood glucose first thing in the morning, go for my walk/jog for 45 mins. to an hour. Afterward, I check my blood glucose and most often it goes up doubly or more. I can’t explain it.

  • anil arora

    i am Diabetes type 2 patient
    my fasting label 120 125 130 some time when i take alcohol last night , 140
    in day after lunch 130/140/150/160

    after dinner 160/170/180 occasionally 190
    i am not taking any medicine as doctor has give me goal of 7% hcac and i have Hb A1c 6.8% in latest test

    are i far from any complications or i should strat medicine