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15 minute stroll could cut diabetes risk
12th June 2013 - Older people could benefit from a 15 minute walk after each meal to help regulate blood sugar levels and reduce their chances of developing type 2 diabetes, say researchers.
A study, published in Diabetes Care, found that three short walks after eating are as effective at reducing blood sugar levels during a 24 hour period as a 45 minute walk taken at the same easy-to-moderate pace.
Moreover, post-meal walking was significantly more effective than a sustained walk at lowering blood sugar for up to three hours following the evening meal.
Taking a stroll
Lead author Loretta DiPietro from George Washington University School of Public Health in the US says: "These findings are good news for people in their 70s and 80s who may feel more capable of engaging in intermittent physical activity on a daily basis, especially if the short walks can be combined with running errands or walking the dog."
Around three million people have been diagnosed with diabetes in the UK and an estimated 850,000 people are believed to have the condition without knowing it.
The Washington researchers carried out a very small study involving 10 men and women, mainly in their late 60s, who were non-smokers but moderately obese, with most of their weight carried around their middle. They were otherwise healthy, but at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes due to higher-than-normal levels of fasting blood sugar and to insufficient levels of physical activity.
The participants took part in three different exercise regimes spaced four weeks apart.
In each of these periods, they spent two days having their energy expenditure measured, then a day either walking for 15 minutes after meals or walking for three quarters of an hour in the morning or mid-afternoon.
All those involved in the trial ate the same type of food and had their blood sugar levels monitored throughout the day.
The researchers found that the most effective time to go for a post-meal walk was after the evening meal. The exaggerated rise in blood sugar after this meal, which is often the largest of the day, lasts well into the night and early morning and this was curbed significantly as soon as the participants started to exercise, say the authors.
'Get out and move'
Loretta DiPietro says there could be an important message for people accustomed to eating a big evening meal and then taking a nap or watching TV. "That’s the worst thing you can do," she cautions. "Let the food digest a bit and then get out and move. A walk timed to follow the big evening meal is particularly important because this research suggests high post-dinner blood sugar is a strong determinant of excessive 24-hour glucose levels."