It’s already well known that weight loss and exercise lowers the risk of diabetes. But one question is: when is the best time to exercise for people who have an increased risk of developing diabetes?
The people who are at increased risk often have an elevated fasting blood glucose level above 100 mg/dl. The most common type of diabetes (“adult onset” or “type 2”) typically manifests with fasting blood sugars above 125. But these people who have full-blown diabetes almost always had “pre-diabetes” for years before that…with fasting blood sugars between 105 and 125.
Many adults fall into this “pre-diabetes” category, and many are overweight and/or sedentary. They are at high-risk for developing actual diabetes when they reach middle age or older, so it is important that they work to control their sugar levels before the condition worsens and reaches the point they need diabetes pills or insulin injections.
The current research study, published June 11 in Diabetes Care, addressed the question of when is the best time to take walks to help control blood sugar. The study was small, involving only 10 pre-diabetic adults age 60 or above, but was very well performed.
The subjects were each put into sealed rooms for 48-hour periods on three different occasions, and this completely closed environment allowed the scientists to accurately measure what was going on metabolically, and their blood glucose levels were continuously monitored during the 48-hour periods.
Each volunteer went through three different walking programs. During one session they did a 45 minute easy to moderate treadmill walk at 10:30 in the morning, during another session they walked instead at 16:30, and during the third session instead of one 45 minute walk, they took three 15 minute walks, each beginning shortly after the end of each daily meal.
The results showed the best program to reduce sugar levels was the three walks per day that followed meals. Second best was one 45 minute walk in the morning. The researchers believed it was especially important to have this easy exercise after a larger meal such as lunch or dinner, because that is when the blood sugar spikes up higher, and causes the most damage to our organism.
When we walk after a meal—beginning about 15 to 30 minutes after finishing the meal—the muscle contractions stimulate the blood sugar to be taken up as fuel by the muscles, and walking also helps the pancreas release insulin. These two mechanisms are especially important for middle-age and older people who may develop a “lazy” pancreas and muscles that do not absorb the glucose as well as young people.
According to lead researcher Dr. Loretta DiPietro, the “worst thing you can do”, regarding your blood sugar levels, is to sit on the sofa and watch TV, or take a nap after a meal. Basically then your blood sugars levels surge upwards for several hours, which slowly damages your kidneys, eyes, brain, and other organs.
So, if you or your doctor have been concerned about your blood sugars levels, push yourself after each meal and walk. If you can’t get outside, at least do some walking around your house. Don’t vegetate in a chair or the sofa, particularly after a large meal!
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