There used to be a tradition of taking a little walk after dinner to aid digestion. Turns out, a short walk after eating can do even more: It
can help reduce the risk of diabetes in older adults by lowering blood sugar levels for hours after a meal, a new study finds.
The research from George Washington University's School of Public Health and Health Services looked at whether a 15-minute walk after each meal was better for blood sugar levels than one 45-minute walk once a day.
Using a small group of inactive, overweight adults age 60-plus, researchers were surprised to find that the three short walks were "significantly" better at controlling the typical spike in blood sugar levels after eating than taking one longer walk daily. The short walks lowered blood sugar levels for three hours after a meal.
Most importantly, a short walk after dinner was much more effective at lowering blood sugar levels than a longer one earlier in the day, lead author Loretta DiPietro, chair of the university's department of exercise science, told HealthDay News.
The after-dinner period is a vulnerable time for older people at risk of diabetes, DiPietro said, because insulin production decreases at the end of the day. Older adults may go to bed with extremely high blood glucose levels, increasing their chances of diabetes, she explained.
In the carefully controlled study, subjects waited 30 minutes after eating, then walked at a pace described as "the low end of moderate" (about 3 mph on a treadmill) for 15 minutes. On other days, they walked 45 minutes on a treadmill either at 10:30 a.m. or at 4:30 p.m.
Both the morning 45-minute treadmill session, and the three 15-minute sessions, controlled blood sugar better than the afternoon 45-minute session, NBC News reported. But only the 15-minute walks managed to significantly reduce blood sugar spikes during the important three-hour post-meal window.
As DiPietro told USA Today, walking "really blunts the rise in blood sugar."
She said the study's results also apply to office workers who sit at their desk all day: After lunch, "go for a short walk," she told NBC News. "More than likely you won't get that food coma."
The study was published in the American Diabetes Association's journal Diabetes Care.
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