All of our patients who are diagnosed with obesity and type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes find out immediately that in order to lower their blood sugar, physical activity +/- exercise must be a part of their lifestyle. While we go over this in the clinic, the reality is that starting an exercise program, when one wasn’t in place beforehand, is a VERY daunting task. We find that many newly diagnosed with diabetes are very scared or intimidated of the gym as well as exercise itself (so are a lot of people in fact).
Luckily we can make the simplest AND most effective blood sugar busting workouts whether going to the gym or doing it at home. Below I will go over the simplest “most bang for your buck” exercise that you DON’T need a gym for.
There have been multiple studies that show which combinations of exercise work best for lowering fasting blood sugars, HbA1c’s, and overall health. This meta-analysis supports that walking decreases HbA1c among type 2 diabetes patients.
The First-Line Exercise
Are you ready for this? It’s walking. Starting a walking program, if physically able, is the perhaps the easiest and most effective exercise prescription and helps build the daily exercise routine habit. Adding walking after meals may be even more beneficial. This might seem so stupid and you might be saying, “Hey Dr. Nadolsky I thought you were going to give me some gold!” Well let me tell you – this is gold.
Patients and Multiple Studies
The reason we prescribe walking so much is for two reasons: 1. It is the easiest exercise to do and 2. It works. For this reason it is the first exercise we prescribe to our patients. For those with diabetes, this study showed walking after meals was better than before meals for blood sugar control. For those considered to have normal blood sugars, this study showed a decrease in blood sugar rise after meals as well. This study shows that walking after meals doesn’t only affect blood sugar but also blood pressure and post-prandial lipemia (fat in the blood after meals) as opposed to sitting. Here is a study showing benefits in gestational diabetes too!
Another method is interrupting your day with several brief bouts of walking or mini-exercises which can be very helpful for those who have sedentary jobs and struggle with structured exercise plans.
If you live with friends or family, the other unspoken benefit of walking after meals is bonding. It is a time to get outside and continue to enjoy each other’s company instead of going to the computer or TV before calling it a night. Win Win!
What to do
Optimal: Walk after every meal. The longer the better, but shoot for 30 minutes.
Still good: Pick one meal to walk after. Shoot for 30 minutes but anything is better than nothing.
Literally doing anything but sitting after meals will go a long way. Instead of going straight to the TV or computer, if you can’t go for a walk because it is too cold or dark outside, do the dishes or laundry or just SOMETHING.