All the things that that we need to do when we learn we have diabetes and want to manage it can seem daunting. Diet, weight loss, exercise, reducing stress and inflammation, and taking pills or insulin can add up to a major headache.
But a brand new study shows that one of these tasks has become much easier. A little exercise can be a big help in bringing down our blood sugar level after a meal.
We have known for years that a brisk walk of half an hour can bring down our sugar level. I well remember when my late wife Catherine asked what she could do when her blood glucose meter showed that her level was above 200 about an hour after dinner. I suggested that we take a brisk walk around the block, and when we got back home and she tested again, her level was almost down to normal.
The difference in her levels before and after that exercise impressed both of us. But the new study shows that we have something that is much better. It’s easy and reduces our sugar level even more.
The study will appear in a forthcoming issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. But the editors thought that it was important enough to release electronically on June 26. Entitled “Breaking prolong sitting reduces postprandial glycemia in healthy, normal-weight adults: a randomized crossover trial,” the study was written by six researchers at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand. Only the abstract is online at http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/early/2013/06/26/ajcn.112.051763.abstract. But the lead author, Meredith C. Peddie, emailed me the full-text.
The study focused on helping people with pre-diabetes so they don’t get diabetes. Of course, what works for them will work just as well for those of us who have diabetes, with one exception. People who have pre-diabetes can avoid living with the disease for the rest of their lives.
The researchers from New Zealand showed that taking short walks every may be more effective at reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes than a 30-minute walk. How short is short?
Is 100 seconds short enough for you? That’s the length of time that they used. One minute and 40 seconds.
In the first part of the study, 70 healthy adult volunteers sat for nine hours. They got a meal-replacement drink after one hour, after four hours, and then after seven hours. After each of these drinks, the researchers checked their blood sugar and insulin levels.
This was a crossover study. That means that the people in the study did different things in different parts of the study. In the second part, they walked briskly for half an hour before sitting for nine hours. Finally, they sat again for nine hours, but this time they walked around for one minute and 40 seconds every half hour.
The results were surprising. They showed that both post-meal insulin and blood sugar levels were lower following the short walks than after the 30-minute walk or when they stayed seated.
Getting up from our chairs every half hour makes so much sense to me that I do it whether or not my blood sugar level is high. Before meals we just need to stretch a little, and that helps us to avoid or minimize back problems. After meals we can easily add a brisk walk of one minute and 40 seconds every half hour. All we need then is a stopwatch.