Benefits of an After Meal Walk

A 10-minute walk after a meal appears to bring big benefits for those with diabetes in reducing their blood sugar. This is the advice being given by researchers from New Zealand’s University of Otago who wanted to evaluate whether walking right after a meal provides improved blood sugar levels than what the current physical activity guidelines suggest.  The current physical activity guideline in New Zealand for people with diabetes is to walk for 30 minutes each day.

The randomized crossover study published in the journal Diabetologia looked at 41 adults with type 2 diabetes with a mean age of 60 years and a mean diabetes duration of 10 years.  In two-week blocks separated by one month, participants were asked to walk for 30 minutes each day at their discretion.  During the second two-week block they were asked to walk for 10 minutes after their main meal of the day.  Each participant was fitted with an accelerometer to measure their physical activity and a continuous glucose monitoring device measuring their blood glucose every five minutes. 

Results from the study showed that when participants walked for 10 minutes right after their main meal of the day their post-meal blood glucose dropped 12 percent on average when compared to walking any time of the day they wanted.  What was interesting was that generally the main meal of the day tends to be the highest in carbohydrate intake and when most people tend to be the least active right after that meal. But when the participants took a 10-minute walk shortly after this meal, there was a significant reduction in their blood sugar. 

These results appear to be an important tool in helping those with type 2 diabetes to better manage their condition.  One way this could be of benefit is in avoiding the need for an increased total insulin dose or additional mealtime insulin injection.  There is the concern that when there is an increase in insulin dosage, this could possibly lead to weight gain in those with type 2 diabetes who are already overweight or obese.

The current physical activity guidelines for those with type 2 diabetes in New Zealand still recommend walking for at least 30 minutes each day.  These findings suggest that the guidelines be changed to also include and recommend a 10-minute walk after the main meal of the day particularly if the meal is carbohydrate heavy to further help better management of type 2 diabetes.