WEDNESDAY, June 12 (HealthDay News) -- Older adults at risk for
getting diabetes who took a 15-minute walk after every meal
improved their blood sugar levels, a new study shows.
Three short walks after eating worked better to control blood
sugar levels than one 45-minute walk in the morning or evening,
said lead researcher Loretta DiPietro, chairwoman of the George
Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services
in Washington, D.C.
"More importantly, the post-meal walking was significantly better than the other two exercise prescriptions at lowering the post-dinner glucose level," DiPietro added.
The after-dinner period is an especially vulnerable time for
older people at risk of diabetes, DiPietro said. Insulin production
decreases, and they may go to bed with extremely high blood glucose
levels, increasing their chances of diabetes.
About 79 million Americans are at risk for type 2 diabetes, in
which the body doesn't make enough insulin or doesn't use it
effectively. Being overweight and sedentary increases the risk.
DiPietro's new research, although tested in only 10 people,
suggests that brief walks can lower that risk if they are taken at
the right times.
The study did not, however, prove that it was the walks causing
the improved blood sugar levels.
"This is among the first studies to really address the timing of the exercise with regard to its benefit for blood sugar control," she said. In the study, the walks began a half hour after finishing each meal.
The research is published June 12 in the journal
For the study, DiPietro and her colleagues asked the 10 older
adults, who were 70 years old on average, to complete three
different exercise routines spaced four weeks apart. At the study's
start, the men and women had fasting blood sugar levels of between
105 and 125 milligrams per deciliter. A fasting blood glucose level
of 70 to 100 is considered normal, according to the U.S. National
Institutes of Health.
The men and women stayed at the research facility and were
supervised closely. Their blood sugar levels were monitored the
entire 48 hours.
On the first day, the men and women did not exercise. On the
second day, they did, and those blood sugar levels were compared to
those on the first day.
The men and women were classified as obese, on average, with a
body-mass index (BMI) of 30. The men and women walked on a
treadmill at a speed of about three miles an hour (a 20-minute
mile, which DiPietro described as the lower end of moderate).
The walks after meals reduced the 24-hour glucose levels the
most when comparing the sedentary day with the exercise day.
A 45-minute morning walk was next best.
Walking after dinner was much better in reducing blood glucose
levels than the morning or afternoon walking, DiPietro found.
Walking a half hour after eating gives time for digestion first,
DiPietro said. Within that half hour, she said, "the glucose starts
flooding the blood. You are using the working muscles to help clear
the glucose from the blood stream." The exercise "is helping a
sluggish pancreas do its job, to secrete insulin to clear the
glucose," she said.
The briefer, more frequent exercise may also sound more doable
to sedentary older adults, she said. "Committing to do this with
someone would work best," DiPietro said. "It can be coupled with
things like walking the dog or running errands."
The findings make physiological sense, said Dr. Stephen Ross,
attending physician at UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica,
"If you are exercising right after you eat, that would cause blood sugar to decrease because more of the glucose would go to the muscles to help the muscles with their metabolism," he said.
The brief walks, Ross said, may also fit a person's schedule
DiPietro cautioned, however, that "you have to do it every day"
to get the benefit. It's not a prescription for fitness, she said,
but simply to reduce diabetes risk.
The study was funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health,
the U.S. National Institute on Aging and the Beltsville Human
Nutrition Research Center of the U.S. Department of
To learn more about diabetes risk, visit the
American Diabetes Association.
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