Exercise For Diabetes

The Best Time to Walk

The surprising news is that taking a walk before eating is a great way to keep our blood glucose levels low. But whether we take a walk before or after eating — or both — we will bring down our blood glucose level at the point where it goes highest.

walk

Taking a little walk after dinner used to be a tradition in this country. Few people do that any more, and now is the time for those of us who have diabetes to bring it back. While we are at it, we can start a new tradition of even shorter walks before dinner.

Walk After Eating

A study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that a little physical activity can be a big help in bringing down our blood glucose level after a meal. Entitled “Breaking prolonged sitting reduces postprandial glycemia in healthy, normal-weight adults: a randomized crossover trial,” the study was written by six researchers at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand.

This study focused on helping people with pre-diabetes so they won’t get diabetes. Of course, what works for them will work just as well for those of us who have diabetes.

But even before this study appeared we had anecdotal evidence for it. I knew from my own experience and that of my late wife that a brisk walk of half an hour can bring down our glucose level.

I well remember when Catherine asked what she could do when her blood glucose meter showed that her level was above 200 about an hour after dinner. I suggested that we take a brisk walk around the block, and when we got back home and she tested again, her level was almost down to normal.

Walk Before Eating

Another study, this one published last year in Diabetologia, which is the professional journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes, looked at what happens when people get their physical activity before a meal. The results surprised even the authors.

The study showed that brief bursts of intense physical activity (like fast walks) before meals helps people with insulin resistance to control their blood glucose better than the standard recommendation to get one daily 30-minute bout of moderate exercise.

Some of the six researchers of this study are also from the University of Otago in New Zealand  but are all different researchers than those of the other study. The abstract of this study is online at “Exercise snacks’ before meals: a novel strategy to improve glycaemic control in individuals with insulin resistance.”

This research shows that both post-meal insulin and blood glucose levels were lower following short pre-meal walks of just 100 seconds then after a 30-minute walk or when they stayed seated. Now that I reflect on this study, I am not at all surprised by the result. Prevention is always easier than a cure, and walking before eating brings our blood glucose levels down well before they go too high.

This article is based on an earlier version of my article published by HealthCentral.

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  • Michael Kleinman February 1, 2016 at 10:54 am

    David,
    As I have mentioned in the past I have been using PSTE(Postprandial Strategic Timed Exercise) for the last 5 years to control my blood sugar with very good results. If I walk too much right after dinner then my liver releases glycogen and it drives my BG up. I walk for 15 minutes right after dinner and then for another 15 min. 2 hours later often driving my levels into the 80’s and sometimes the high 70’s. Dr Mercola had suggest intermittently walking fast and slow like the article you site and I have found that that works even better! I am going to try walking before eating and see if I get even better results, and then before and after and see what happens. Thanks for the info! I have mentioned this before but no one seems to be talking about using alcohol in conjunction with exercise to drive down postprandial BG. I do not drink often because I often get wiped out the next day even if it is just one glass of wine but if I am at a restaurant and want to splurge a little bit I will drink one glass of wine and then walk after dinner. I need to be careful not to walk too much or my blood sugar will drop too low and the alarm goes off on my meter. This is because the alcohol shuts down my liver from releasing glycogen and I am able to burn off all the blood sugar I want without my liver releasing any more. I am surprised no one has done a study on this. If I liked drinking more I could have one glass of wine with dinner every night, then take a short walk and perfectly control my blood sugar.