A new study by researchers at the Goerge Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services (SPHHS) demonstrates that a fifteen walk after each meal helps older people regulate blood sugar levels and could reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes.The study, published in Diabetes Care, determined that three short post-meal walks were as effective at reducing blood sugar over 24
hours as a 45-minute walk of the same easy-to-moderate pace. Post-meal walking was significantly more effective than a sustained walk at lowering blood sugar for up to three hours following the evening meal.
Lead study author Loretta DiPietro, PhD, suggested that elder people may benefit substantially: “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”. “The muscle contractions connected with short walks were immediately effective in blunting the potentially damaging elevations in post-meal blood sugar commonly observed in older people,” she said.
The study population consisted of a small group of ten people age 60 and older who 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.
Participants completed three randomly-ordered exercise protocols spaced four weeks apart. Each protocol comprised a 48-hour stay in a whole-room calorimeter, with the first day serving as a control period. On the second day, participants engaged in either post-meal walking for 15 minutes after each meal or 45 minutes of sustained walking performed at 10:30 in the morning or at 4:30 in the afternoon. All walking was performed on a treadmill at an easy-to-moderate pace. Participants ate standardized meals and their blood sugar levels were measured continuously over each 48 hour stay.
The team observed 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 — often the largest of the day — often lasts well into the night and early morning and this was curbed significantly as soon as the participants started to walk on the treadmill, DiPietro said.
The study provides that from a public health perspective moderate exercise may have more impact on a large scale population that is at risk for type 2 diabetes.
Loretta DiPietro, Andrei Gribok, Michelle S. Stevens, Larry F. Hamm and William Rumpler. Three 15-min Bouts of Moderate Postmeal Walking Significantly Improves 24-h Glycemic Control in Older People at Risk for Impaired Glucose Tolerance. Diabetes Care, 2013 DOI: 10.2337/dc13-0084