Academic Health Center
Stay Connected

Research shows 15-minute walks help lower your risk for type 2 diabetes

Photo: Linda Tanner via Flickr

A new study from George Washington University shows that a 15-minute walk after each meal can help lower your risk for type 2 diabetes, especially in elderly adults, and can significantly reduce blood sugar levels and help minimize the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

To arrive at their results, researchers evaluated 10 volunteers in their early 70s. Participants had elevated blood sugar levels, but were not diabetic. Over the course of four weeks, participants engaged in three separate two-day tests. During these tests, their blood sugar levels were constantly monitored. Researchers asked the participants to walk on a treadmill for either 45 minutes in the mid-morning or afternoon, or for 15 minutes after each meal.

Here are the most noteworthy findings:

  • Three short walks after meals were just as effective as a 45-minute walk in reducing blood sugar.
  • High post-dinner blood sugar is a strong indicator of excessive 24-hour glucose levels, so resting after a meal can be one of the worst habits to fall in to.
  • Walking after the evening meal, which tends to be the largest consumed, was most effective.

The results come as good news to older people who may tire easily and need to exercise in smaller increments.

Lisa Chow, M.D., an endocrinologist from the  Division of Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism at the University of Minnesota who studies the effect of exercise on metabolism, offered her thoughts on the results.

“Considering a lot of elderly patients generally don’t get much physical activity, some exercise is better than none,” said Chow. “If someone can get their recommended 45 minutes a day from three 15-minute sessions, then that should be incorporated into a daily routine.”

Surprisingly, the study also found three 15-minute walks to be more effective than a three hour long walk after an evening meal. However, researchers stressed that this routine shouldn’t be aimed at weight loss, but rather, glycemic control.

“Considering that many people are inactive, inclusion of regular tolerated exercise in any form is a great idea,” said Chow. “This study shows that even a small amount of exercise can make a positive impact on one’s health. The point is to not get overwhelmed by the prospect of exercise. Just go out and be active.”

So today, after a meal, take the dog for a stroll around the block or run a quick errand; it could be doing a lot more good than you think.

Read more about the study here.

Editor’s note: Study researchers caution their results should now be confirmed in larger groups.  

  1. February 10, 2014 11:09 am | William McLellan Says:

    I am 68, run up three flights of stairs in twenty seconds, but still have A1c just above the spec, even though I walk daily for 45 minutes after lunch. This study answers a lot of questions regarding my own health, so now I am incorporating exercise at more appropriate times. People in their 70s are not necessarily “elderly”; I certainly won’t look at myself that way in two years. It is precisely those of us who think we are in good shape who need our doctors to give some meaningful feedback when reviewing our bloodwork.

Join The Conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *