At Risk for Type 2 Diabetes? Try Intermittent Walking, Say Researchers

By on June 18, 2013
The problem is clear: Our risk of type 2 diabetes continues to increase, partially thanks to skyrocketing obesity rates and a bad fast food lifestyle. Though eating right and keeping your weight under control can minimize your risk, it’s not always effective–other factors, such as genetics, also play a crucial role.

But now researchers from George Washington University say there’s a simple solution: walking more.

The study, which was reported in Diabetes Care, found that short bouts of easy-to-moderate walking following a meal were effective at reducing blood sugar, which could reduce a person’s risk of type 2 diabetes.

“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,” says Loretta DiPietro, PhD, MPH, chair of the George Washington University Department of Exercise Science. “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.”

For people at risk of developing type 2 diabetes, this could perhaps be their ticket to a healthier, disease-free future. Statistics show that nearly 80 million Americans currently have a condition called pre-diabetes, where blood sugar levels are elevated beyond normal levels. Recent research shows that pre-diabetes itself isn’t a safe condition; heart damage has been cited as a possible complication.

The Study’s Findings, Condensed

Conducted by George Washington University, researchers recruited 10 people at risk of developing type 2 diabetes–usually, the risk was assessed by measuring their fasting blood sugar. Researchers then had the participants do a set of random exercises to see how it would impact their blood sugar levels. Of all of the exercises tested, one came out on top: Walking for short, 15 minute bouts right after a meal. Conversely, what fared worst was moderate, long bouts of exercise of up to 45 minutes in length.

In this case, shorter is better.

However, researchers warn that these findings need further testing by using bigger trials. There may be small discrepancies in the study that may not be revealed unless bigger groups of participants are tested.

How You Can Use These Findings

The research is clear: If you want to reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes, then walking, in the form of short bouts of exercise, is a good way to do it. Here’s how to incorporate it into your own lifestyle:

  • After a big meal, get up and walk outside. It doesn’t need to be anything strenuous: In fact, research shows that it’s best to make it short and easy. A walk around your neighborhood should be enough to keep your blood sugar within normal parameters.
  • Kick long bouts of exercise to the curb. While it may be a better solution for burning calories, research shows that short bouts of exercise fare better for pre-diabetics.
  • Make it a priority to walk. It’s easy to fit walking into your schedule; simply substitute a short car ride for a walk instead as a way to keep your blood sugar levels stable.

Readers: What other ways do you minimize your diabetes risk?

Diabetes Study – George Washington University

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