For those who are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes the overweight, obese, or those with a family history, for example a small new study just published in Diabetes Care suggests that walking at a moderate pace for 15 minutes after meals can help prevent the disease.
The study, led by Dr. Loretta DePietro of George Washington University, involved ten participants who were over 60 years old, were inactive, and had fasting blood glucose levels between 105 and 125 mgm/dl. This level of fasting glucose would put them in a pre-diabetic range.
The experimental protocol involved having the subjects live in a metabolic chamber (whole room calorimeter) for 48 hours. This allowed the researchers to monitor their energy expenditure and other metabolic parameters.
For the first 24 hours, the subjects did no exercise. On the second day, they participated in one of 3 exercise procedures: 1)they walked for 15 minutes post meal; 2)they walked for 45 minutes at either 10:30 am or 3) walked for 45 minutes at 4:00 pm. All walking was performed on a treadmill in the metabolic chamber. Each person completed each of the three protocols in random order.
Both the 45 minute morning walk and the 15 minute post meal walk protocols significantly improved the participants blood glucose control compared to that on the first (non-exercise) day. However, the investigators found that the shorter, 15 minute post meal exercise bouts were significantly more effective than the 45 minute protocols whether performed in the morning or in the afternoon.
It s been recognized for years that exercise can help control blood glucose levels. When muscles are in use they take up glucose from the blood, thus moderating levels that increase after meals.
ACSH s Dr. Ruth Kava comments This study, though small, is well done, and suggests that older people who are at risk of diabetes can help prevent the disease by means of moderate exercise. Hopefully, more studies will support these conclusions: Until that occurs, health care providers dealing with pre-diabetic persons can suggest this relatively modest level of activity to stave off the condition.