Walking After Meals Can Lower Your Blood Sugar

 In Mobility & Movement Blog

If you are someone who has diabetes, odds are that you are familiar with blood sugar and the effects that food can have on it. When we eat, our blood sugar rises. In healthy individuals, this increase in blood sugar signals the production of insulin to carry the blood sugar away and convert it into glucose to be used for energy, either right away or later. However, for individuals who have diabetes, their insulin sensitivity is compromised, meaning that they either don’t produce enough or their body doesn’t efficiently use the insulin to carry the blood sugar away. Studies have shown that our blood sugar levels are highest 30 to 90 minutes after eating. So how does walking help?

When we exercise, whether it is a lower-intensity activity like walking or a higher-intensity activity like weightlifting, our body will slow down the process of converting the food into blood sugar because more of the blood will be directed away from the stomach to the muscles that are working. This in turn will allow the insulin that we produce to be more efficient at regulating the sugar that is in the bloodstream and using it for the energy needed for the activity, heightening the insulin sensitivity. Studies have shown that even walking for as little as 2 to 5 minutes can have a slight positive effect. Other studies have shown that walking for 15 minutes, 3 times a day, has proven to have the same effect as walking at a moderate pace for a single 45-minute session. Both exercise strategies have been shown to lower blood sugar levels for 24 hours. When you perform this activity daily, your body will become efficient at converting the blood sugar and using it for energy, increasing your insulin sensitivity and, therefore normalizing your blood sugar levels. But walking consistently also has other benefits. It will aid in weight loss, help increase muscle and bone density, and even improve your energy and mood. But what if you can’t walk for even 15 minutes? Here is a strategy to help you get there and beyond.


Start with what you can do!

As mentioned earlier, even as little as 2 to 5 minutes can help. In fact, even simply standing instead of sitting or lying down after eating, has positive effects.  Start with any duration that you can manage, walking slowly, and gradually increase the length of time until you can do 15 minutes.


Increase the intensity of the walking

After you have built up your stamina to be able to walk slowly for 15 minutes, gradually increase your speed to a moderate pace. Start by walking faster for 1 minute, then slow back down until you catch your breath. Repeat this for the entire walking session. The following week, increase to 2 minutes at a faster pace. Keep doing this until you can walk the entire 15 minutes at a moderate pace. A moderate pace is considered a pace in which you can still talk but not sing.  This will get you to burn more calories and strengthen your legs, heart and lungs.

Change the terrain to challenge your muscles

As you start feeling stronger and more confident with your walks, look for ways to change your terrain, add in walking up hills or including stairs. These will challenge your muscles more, building strength in your legs and increasing your cardiovascular fitness.


Choose 1 day each week that you are going to walk longer

Now that you have built your stamina, cardiovascular and muscular strength, choose 1 day to go for a longer walk after dinner. Make this walk last for 45-60 minutes. You will burn more calories, still have the same benefits for lowering your blood sugar levels, strengthening your heart and lungs, and sleeping better that night.

Dealing with high blood sugar levels or Type II diabetes is not a life sentence. It is controllable and even reversable. And the best news of all is that it can be done by simply getting up and moving more after you eat. I suggest that you move within 30-60 minutes of eating to get the greatest benefit. It may take a little effort and planning, but the results will be worth it. If you need help getting into a routine, reach out to a friend to walk with you, or even let a loved one know what you are planning on doing so they can help hold you accountable.

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