If you’re at risk for developing type 2 diabetes, then take a 15-minute walk after every meal.
A recent study shows that moderately-paced walks after meals work as well at regulating overall blood sugar in adults with prediabetes as a 45-minute walk once a day.
Walking after a meal “really blunts the rise in blood sugar,” says the study’s lead author, Loretta DiPietro, professor and chair of the department of exercise science at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services.
“You eat a meal. You wait a half-hour and then you go for a 15-minute walk. … You have to do it every day after every meal,” she says. “This amount of walking is not a prescription for weight loss or cardiovascular fitness — it’s a prescription for controlling blood sugar.”
Almost 26 million children and adults (8.3% of the population) in the USA have diabetes, and about 79 million Americans have pre-diabetes.
DiPietro and colleagues worked with 10 overweight, sedentary volunteers who were an average age of 71. All had higher than normal blood sugar levels and were considered pre-diabetic, which means they were at risk for developing type 2 diabetes, the most common type.
Each participant stayed in a metabolic chamber, a special room that helps researchers track the calories burned by the volunteers, for two days on three separate occasions. On the first day, participants did no physical activity.
On the second day, they either walked at an easy to moderate pace (about 3 mph) on a treadmill for 15 minutes — about a half-hour after each meal; or they walked for 45 minutes at 10:30 a.m.; or they walked the same amount of time at 4:30 p.m. Their blood sugar levels were measured continually throughout the two-day period.
The research, which is in June’s issue of Diabetes Care, shows that the timing of walks is important, DiPietro says. After dinner is a good time to walk with your partner, a neighbor or your dog, she says. If you can’t go outside, then march in place for 15 minutes, she says.
After lunch, many employees go and sit down for another four hours, but based on these findings, companies and businesses should make it easier for employees to go out and take a walk after lunch, says Tim Church, director of preventive medicine research at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge.
John Anderson, president of medicine and science for the American Diabetes Association, says it makes sense that a short walk would lower blood sugar after meals.
“What we don’t know,” he says, “is if it is going to make a big difference over time in people’s progression from prediabetes to diabetes — any more than the standard exercise advice of walking 30 minutes a day, five days a week.”