Short walks cut type-2 diabetes risk

If you’re at risk for developing type-2 diabetes, you may think you need to make a major lifestyle change to get your health back on track.

But that’s not entirely true, if you are only “at risk.” Even small lifestyle changes can cut your risk for developing this chronic disease.

In fact, new evidence out of George Washington University suggests that even short walks after meals can make a world of difference.

In this small but interesting study, GW researchers recruited 10 men and women at risk for developing type-2 diabetes. All the participants had moderately high fasting blood sugar levels of 105 to 125 mg/dL. The “normal” range for fasting blood sugar levels is 70 to 100 mg/dL normal. Plus, the researchers classified all the participants as obese, with body-mass indexes (BMIs) over 30. (Although, to this point, I must remind you that the BMI test is a poor indicator of overall body composition, health and fitness.)

As part of the study, the participants walked on a treadmill at different times during the day. The participants kept a pace of three miles per hour. Researchers then measured their blood sugar levels following the moderate exercise.

Overall, they found that walking for 15 minutes after meals significantly reduced blood sugar levels in these older adults. And walking after dinner reduced blood sugar levels most dramatically.

A single, longer walk of 45 minutes in the morning also helped to reduce blood sugar. But not as much as walking after meals.

Why is a short walk, taken after dinner in particular, so beneficial?

We know that walking after a meal is not so much about cardiovascular “fitness.” But improves your glucose metabolism. And our parents and grandparents must have intuitively known this.

I remember my grandparents often took a stroll down the lane after dinner. This was a common practice in Europe and in many parts of the U.S. Like their good advice about what to have for dinner, we should have paid more attention to what they did after dinner.

The after-dinner period is an especially vulnerable time for aging people at risk of diabetes. In fact, sitting down on the sofa to watch TV after dinner is just about the worst thing you can do for blood sugar control.

You see, insulin production deceases in the evening. And you may go to bed with high blood sugar levels, which increases the risk of developing diabetes.

So–always go for your short walk half an hour after eating. This gives your body time for digestion to begin. Then, as glucose begins to flood from the gastro-intestinal tract into the bloodstream, get up to begin your walk.

Obviously, moderate walking works your muscles. But your muscles also burn off the glucose. This helps prevent it from flooding into your bloodstream. Moderate exercise also helps the pancreas secrete insulin to drive sugar into the tissue cells and out of the blood.

This common-sense study was not large or expensive. But in terms of practical advice people can really use, it’s a great one. I’m actually amazed that this is the first study to address how exercising at different times of the day impacts blood sugar.

Bottom line?

You don’t need a major lifestyle overhaul to take control of your blood sugar. These short walks can do a world of good. And they’re easier on your joints than more strenuous workout routines.

But you do have to walk every day to get the benefits.

So, be practical about it.

Couple your short walks with running errands or visiting a neighbor. Or better yet, take your dog for a walk every night after dinner. Don’t have a dog? Well, maybe you should consider getting one. Tomorrow, I’ll tell you about the surprising health benefits of dog ownership. And it’s not just because dog owners walk more. Tune back in tomorrow to learn all about it.