If you’ve been told you have pre-diabetes or are at risk of developing diabetes, you can take steps to reduce your risk or prevent or delay the disease.
Diabetes leads to high blood sugar or glucose in the blood since it affects the body’s ability to make or use insulin properly. Managing diabetes is all about maintaining a healthy blood sugar level. Eating healthy foods and limiting portion sizes are two dietary steps to help keep blood sugar levels stable.
Along with diet improvements, a recent study from the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services recommends taking a hike after each meal. According to the study’s lead author, Loretta DiPietro, taking a 15-minute moderately paced walk after a meal works well to blunt the rise in blood sugar.
DiPietro says, “You eat a meal, you wait a half-hour and then you go for a 15-minute walk, but you need to do this every day after every meal.” The walking isn’t necessarily intended to produce weight loss or improve cardiovascular fitness, but these may very well be added benefits. The 15-minute walk after each meal works as well at regulating blood sugar in adults with prediabetes as a 45-minute walk once a day.
The research isn’t based on a large population. Instead, DiPietro and her colleagues worked with 10 overweight, sedentary volunteers whose average age was 71. Their blood sugars were at the high end of normal, in a range considered to be pre-diabetes, and they were at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Each volunteer was placed in a special room (metabolic chamber) to help the researchers measure the calories burned by the volunteers.
The first day of being placed in the room was considered a control day and the participants weren’t allowed to exercise. On the second day, the participants were asked to walk on a treadmill at a moderate pace (about three miles per hour) for 15 minutes about a half an hour after each meal. The other days, the participants walked for 45 minutes at either 10:30 a.m. or 4:30 p.m. The participants’ blood sugars were measured continuously throughout the two-day period.
The researchers reported that the timing of the walks is an important part of the health benefits. Walking has been found to be beneficial because the muscle contractions help to clear blood sugar.
It’s a challenge to fit 15 minutes in three times a day, but not impossible. After you eat lunch at work, do you continue to sit and chat with co-workers until it’s time to return to your work responsibilities? Instead, go outside with your co-workers for a 15-minute walk. What do you do for exercise on really rainy days? Take along an umbrella or march in place inside for 15 minutes.
There are also great walking DVDs that can motivate you to walk a mile in 15 minutes on rainy or cold, blustery winter days. Look for Leslie Sansone DVDs as a place to begin. A 15-minute walk after dinner will give you the opportunity to catch up on the latest goings on with your partner or a neighbor.
The government’s exercise guidelines recommend that adults get at least 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity physical activity each week. A brisk walk, biking or swimming laps, or a combination of these activities will provide health benefits from exercise.
Adults also should spend time working on muscle-strengthening (resistance) activities targeting all major muscle groups two or more days a week. Exercises should target the chest, shoulders, back, upper legs, abdomen, hips and lower legs. You can use free weights, weight machines, resistance bands or calisthenics such as push-ups, pull-ups and sit-ups. Carrying heavy loads, and digging or hoeing in the garden are also considered resistance exercises.
Georgia Clark-Albert is a registered dietitian nutritionist and certified diabetes educator at Penobscot Community Health Care in Bangor. She provides nutrition consultant services through Mainely Nutrition in Athens. Read her columns and post questions at bangordailynews.com or email her at GeorgiaMaineMSRDCDE@gmail.com.