According to a study, released in the journal Diabetes Care, a 15 minute walk after a meal exerts significant control over the high blood sugar of older people.
This is very important to know because blood sugar spikes after meals. In young, fit, people, insulin helps drive that sugar into muscle cells and the liver where it’s stored for energy. As people age, this system becomes less efficient, explained the study’s leader, Loretta DiPietro of the Department of Exercise Science at The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services. That exercise helps prevent these effects shouldn’t be any surprise, that’s why most experts recommend at least 45 minutes of exercise most days of the week. But as DiPietro stated, many older people may not be able to, or even be motivated to exercise for such a sustained amount of time.
In the experiment, researchers put 10 volunteers with an average age of 60 and with elevated, but not diabetic, levels of blood sugar through three different two-day tests, each four weeks apart, in a special room designed for the study. The first day of each two-day period the volunteers did not exercise at all. Their glucose level was continuously monitored with an implanted meter, they exercised by walking on a treadmill for 45 minutes mid-morning, or 45 in the afternoon, or for 15 minutes half an hour after each tightly controlled meal by walking at a pace of 3 miles per hour.
Without exercise, post-meal blood sugar spikes were not well controlled. Both mid-morning 45-minute treadmill session and the three 15-minute sessions, controlled the blood sugar over the 2-day period better than the afternoon 45-minute session. But only the 15-minute walks were able to significantly lower blood sugar spikes during the important three-hour post-meal window.
The study suggests that walking could be a useful tool to help prevent diabetes in older people. “This is not for weight loss, and it’s not going to increase your cardiovascular fitness very much,” Di Pietro said. “It’s very specifically for glycemic control with older age.” But everyone can benefit because we all experience glucose spikes after eating.