Type 2 diabetes might be prevented by timing your walks

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Take a short walk to stop type 2 diabetes, suggests new study.

Aging is a known risk factor for type 2 diabetes that is difficult to prevent. But a new study from George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services shows taking a short walk after meals is a simple way to lower your risk of the disease.

Preventing type 2 diabetes with after meal walking

Researchers for the study say walking to prevent type 2 diabetes is all in the timing. The finding is especially important if your doctor has diagnosed you with 'pre-diabetes' that comes from insulin resistance. Walking three times a day after meals for 15-minutes could lower your chances of having to take anti-diabetic medications in the future.

Eating a meal causes blood sugar levels to spike. When the body develops insulin resistance that is a component of metabolic syndrome glucose levels stay higher than normal and for a longer period of time. Even though insulin is still being produced by the pancreas, the hormone has become less effective at lowering blood sugar levels.

Walking pulls glucose from the bloodstream into the muscles where it is used as energy.

The study

The study found walking after a meal was more effective at keeping blood sugar levels lower than sustained walking. Glucose levels stayed lower for 3 to 4 hours after a post meal 15-minute walk.

Lead study author Loretta DiPietro, PhD, MPH, chair of the SPHHS Department of Exercise Science said in a media release, “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 says the finding is good news for people in their 70s and 80s who might find it easier to engage in shorter episodes of exercise that can also be combined with running errands or walking the dog after meals.

An estimated 79 million people in the US have pre-diabetes, but may not know they are at risk. Regular exercise and weight loss if needed can help curb the chance of developing type 2 diabetes.

The study is the first to show that short bouts of exercise can help prevent type 2 diabetes in older adults who are at risk for the disease.

The researchers recruited ten people age 60and older who were adults with higher than normal blood sugar levels for the study who were at risk for type 2 diabetes.

The participants were given 3 different types of exercise programs spaced four-weeks apart. The recruits stayed in a whole-room calorimeter for 48 hours.

On day 2, the participants either walked for 15 minutes after each meal or engaged in 45 minutes continuous walking at 10:30 in the morning or at 4:30 in the afternoon. All walking was done on a treadmill that was low to moderate intensity.

Blood sugar levels were checked continuously and calorie intake from meals was controlled.

The finding showed the best time to walk after a meal to lower blood sugar levels was after dinner, which is usually the largest meal of the day. DiPietro says after dinner walks significantly lowered blood sugar levels that otherwise can remain high throughout the night and into the morning. Consistently high blood sugar levels can silently do damage by leading to even more insulin resistance and eventually type 2 diabetes.

The finding, published in the journal Diabetes Care, needs to be confirmed in larger studies that include more participants, says DiPietro. Finding simple ways to prevent type 2 diabetes would have a significant impact on public health. '

The study suggests taking a short walk after a meal, and especially after an evening meal once food has had a little time to begin digesting, could be a simple and attainable way to stop type 2 diabetes from developing in older people. Based on the finding though, the timing of walking may be the key to diabetes prevention.