A fifteen minute walk after each meal may help older people regulate blood sugar levels and could reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes, a new study has claimed.
The study by researchers at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services (SPHHS), found 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.
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.
Lead study author Loretta DiPietro, PhD, MPH, chair of the SPHHS Department of Exercise Science, said that 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.
She said that 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.
DiPietro and her colleagues recruited 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.
DiPietro said that 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.
The study has been published in Diabetes Care.