- New research has found that walking for two minutes can lower blood sugar and the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
- The researchers found that the impact of walking after a meal is best 60 to 90 minutes after eating, when blood sugar levels are at their highest.
- Walking has a host of health benefits, including weight management, mood enhancement, and blood pressure control.
Sometimes it can be difficult to get it right 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity each week. Between meetings and making dinner, or cleaning the kitchen and preparing presentations, movement can sometimes take a back seat. But new research has found that just two minutes of walking (yes, really!) can have a positive impact on blood sugar levels and potentially stave off type 2 diabetes.
A meta-analysis of seven studies, published in the journal Sports medicineexamined the impact of sitting for long periods of time compared to light-intensity walking or standing on markers of cardiometabolic health.
Study participants were placed in a standing or standing group and instructed to walk or stand for two to five minutes every 20 to 30 minutes throughout the day. Two of the seven studies included participants with and without diabetes. The remaining five included participants without a history of diabetes. Researchers found that even these few minutes of slow walking were enough to create a drop in blood sugar levels.
Specifically, walking 60 to 90 minutes after eating (when blood sugar levels are at their peak) was associated with more gradual changes in blood sugar levels compared to sitting or standing. This is important for those with prediabetes or another type of diabetes who are looking to avoid dramatic changes in blood sugar.
The researchers measured heart health using systolic blood pressure (the highest number that represents how hard the heart pumps blood around the body), postprandial glucose (a measure of glucose in the bloodstream over the four hours after eating) and insulin (the hormone that regulates blood sugar).
The study found no significant influence on insulin or blood pressure. Additionally, the research found that standing also helped lower blood sugar levels, but not to the same extent as walking.
“Studies have clearly shown that moderate exercise, including simply walking, after a meal can reduce postprandial blood sugar spikes,” says Nick West, MD, chief medical officer and divisional vice president of global doctors of Abbott. “In people with diabetes, this has resulted in better glucose control, which in the long run could translate into reduced complications of the disease.”
He notes, “The timing of exercise, however, is important. The optimal window is one to one and a half hours after a meal, which is when blood sugar levels peak in the bloodstream.” .
The bottom line
If you’re thinking about adding an after-dinner walk to your regular routine, Dr. West says it’s a great idea for more than blood sugar benefits. “Despite recently described benefits in blood sugar control and diabetes prevention, exercise in general is good for cardiovascular heart health and fitness, and can help maintain a healthy body weight which in itself is important for several reasons.” Adding walking after a meal can even improve bloating and gas; and in the evening, improves sleep.
In fact, there are so many benefits of walking every day. additional research has found that just 10 minutes of walking can improve your mood and another to study He found that regular walking can help reduce body fat and improve the body’s response to insulin. Month, studies have linked regular walking with low blood pressure, and another study found that walking improved cardiovascular health.
Dr. West warns that exercising too vigorously too soon after meals can cause some indigestion and abdominal pain, so it’s best to choose the intensity of your post-meal exercise carefully and consider the size of your dinner.
In short, add a short walk to your schedule after meals and find ways to make walking fun for you, how to catch you best walking shoesyour favorite podcast, your dog or a friend to move you after meals!
Arielle Weg is the Associate Editor of prevention and loves to share her favorite wellness and nutrition obsessions. She previously managed content at The Vitamin Shoppe, and her work has also appeared on Women’s Health, Men’s Health, Cooking Light, MyRecipes, and more. You can usually find her taking an online training class or messing around in the kitchen, creating something delicious she found in her cookbook collection or saved to Instagram.
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