Walking Significantly Reduces After-Meal Glucose

We have previously discussed the benefits of walking for warding off diabetes. Now new research from the Mayo Clinic indicates that walking after meals can help lower postmeal glucose levels in people with and without diabetes alike.


As part of a larger study on after-meal glucose tolerance, researchers looked at 24 study participants, 12 of whom had Type 1 diabetes, and 12 of whom did not have diabetes. Over the course of three days and four nights, the researchers kept track of the participants in a controlled environment, noting their diet and calorie intake, monitoring their physical activity with devices known as triaxial accelerometers, and measuring their glucose levels with implantable continuous glucose monitors.

The participants walked after two of their daily meals and sat after a randomly chosen third meal. Walking was conducted in intervals in which participants walked for 33.5 minutes and sat for 26.5 minutes. Overall, they walked for a total of five to six hours and 3.5 to 4.2 miles in each 24-hour period.

At 4.5 hours after eating, people with diabetes had a glucose level 145% higher, on average, after inactivity than after walking. In people without diabetes, there was a roughly 113% increase at 4.5 hours after eating after inactivity compared to after walking. In general, walking began to affect glucose levels ten minutes after the exercise started and the benefits extended until five minutes after it had stopped; the improvement was roughly 30 mg/dl. Substituting other physical activities, such as hand-washing dishes, after meals might have the same blood glucose benefits, the researchers note.

According to lead study author Yogish Kudva, MD, MBBS, “Minimal activity sustained for 30 minutes (walking 0.7 miles in 33 minutes) lowers post-meal glucose concentrations. Such activity has little or no risk for almost everybody.”

For more information, read the article “Walking After Eating Lowers Glucose in Healthy People and Diabetes Patients,” or see the study’s abstract in Diabetes Care. And if you’d like more motivation to get walking, check out the article “Training for a Walkathon,” by professor of exercise physiology Werner W. K. Hoeger.

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 >>

  • Fran Sanchez

    I do walk after my morning meal and it does help.

  • Manny Barrientos

    What about Type 2 diabetes patients? Were they excluded formt he study?

    • markku

      Type 2 diabetes patients benefit tremendously from walks.. One of the best things you can do. Another very important (and easy) thing you can do is to stand up and sit down every 15 minutes when you are sitting. That’s all you have to do. Try it!

  • Steve

    I’m Type 2 and I walk. 1.15 miles (22 minutes) at morning break, 1.6 miles (35 minutes) after lunch and 1.6 miles after dinner. My total steps for the day average between 10,000 and 12,000, frequently in the 13-14,000 range (6.5 miles). I’ve been dong this for 4 years and it has a salutory benefit to my insulin intake. My insulin requirment rises considerably if I don’t walk or don’t walk as much. The effect of walking is very noticeable. So, from an empirical point of view, my experience mirrors the article and study. Carry on.

    • Michael Dirk


  • Kathryn A Timmerman

    What about type 2 diabetic with COPD with some
    shortness of breath and getting out of breath with
    walking? Any suggestions?

  • BimBam

    This makes sense as walking has a palliative affect on anything. As a mood enhancer, especially against depression, anger, sadness, inability to focus, etc.

  • Virginia

    With a large family, who has time to walk after meals. I was hoping for a simpler suggestions, like drinking 2 tablespoons of cider vinegar before eating. I have done this and it helps tremendously with after- meal glucose readings

    • markku

      don’t be lazy, you have ten minutes time.

  • tomas

    I’m actually more interested in which implantable cgm was used? Does that mean there is something out of FDA approval or part of a clinical trial?

  • Jan

    Does walking on a treadmill work as well as going out for a walk?

  • joan

    I have known for many years that any activity pre or post meal will reduce our blood glucose considerably, but not always.

    I suggest that the type of carbs may also be a factor to push the test results up higher than expected or wanted or down for that matter.

    This trial to see what happens using activity to lower test results was CONTROLLED and does not allow for incidentals that occur in our daily lifestyles! There is usually not just one method of control that works well for every individual.

    For our test results to rise a bit is not unusually harmful; but when the test results are very high (200+) then some adjustment to our Ratio of insulin to carbs is needed. The higher the BG level the slower it lowers. Also, the Sensitivity levels may not have been adjusted correctly. Of course, saying all of the above ….

    It really depends on the individual’s metabolic system, doesn’t?

  • Steve

    Kathryn, as a type II patient who also has been diagnosed with severe chronic Pulmonary Hypertension, a condition with similar symptoms as COPD, several months ago I could barely walk across my living room without getting winded. When I began walking, I could only manage 2 minutes. Now, by God’s grace, I am able to walk 1.25 miles in 30 minutes on my treadmill, at least 5 times per week, every week. My blood levels are under control and my doctor has taken me off two of my diabetes medications. My goal is 1.50 miles in 30 minutes by the end of the year. My advice to you is to start, even if it for 2 minutes. I also utilize body weight exercises, such as pushups, and use clean eating and have lost 70 pounds.

  • Ferne

    So what do you suggest for those of us who can’t walk. There is never any suggestions for the handicapped. We are the forgotten ones and all I ever read is try walking farther and faster. PLEASE, we are not all young and able bodied!!!

  • Diane Fennell

    Hi Ferne,

    Thanks for your question. As an alternative to walking, you might be interested in trying some of the activities highlighted in the pieces “Accessible Exercise and Recreation,” “Chair and Wheelchair Dancing,” or “Golfing With Disabilities.”

    Diane Fennell
    Web Editor

  • jim snell

    I am amazed at all the comments.

    Exercising burns energy.

    Results are not instant and in fact the body is burning off the glucose stored in tempoary storage of skeletal muscles first. Once that temporary storage gets lower, than the glucose from ones meal gets transferred in a time delay.

    If one does not exercise sufficiently to get reserves burned off, effect on BG may appear small or nil.

    If BG jumps up, one wants to make sure not exercising immediatly after meals – at least 30 minutes or it will cause the gut/intestine contents to be rushed thru and jump glucose output.

    Walking, swimming, exercising smoothly and slowly will do the job. If one has a liver dump shooting glucose skyward – fast walking helps get the stuff burnt off/booted out. One though needs to be careful as the effect of glucose being siphoned off the blood system does take time and goes on for quite some time and one can drive a low (unexpected) as body is reloading the temporary storage for some time filling the empty space.

    This goes under FIFOS (first in First out storage buffers) which the body was built with to protect one against being attached by the saber tooth tiger sneaking around the corner looking for quick snack. Human muscles are like missles in the silos with fuel pre-loaded to launch immediatly.

  • Philip Smith

    I was recently diagnosed with diabetes. Two hours after a modest breakfast my blood glucose was 142,mg/dl . I then went for a 50 min walk and remeasured the BG. It was 75. Very encouraging, so that now I think I shall do it after each main meal[but for a shorter time]and check it out by monitoring BG levels.