Better Glucose Management, Step By Step

It can be done anywhere, at anytime, is fee-free, and requires no special equipment other than a pair of sturdy, comfortable shoes.

Walking is good for joint health, sound sleep, better circulation, and it helps those over 65 avoid disability. Research suggests that hoofing it for just 30 minutes per day:

  • Improves blood pressure, and lowers the risk for heart disease.
  • Improves blood lipid (fat) profiles.
  • Elevates our mood.
  • Helps with weight maintenance, and reduces the risk for obesity.
  • Diminishes the risk for osteoporosis.

Depending on the season or weather, walking also helps us get a healthy dose of sun exposure, boosting our vitamin D levels.

Walking and Diabetes

For people with type 1 or 2 diabetes, walking provides some condition-specific perks. Most research shows that trekking on sidewalks or trails benefits the physical, psychological, and financial aspects of daily glucose management, for instance:

  • Type 1 Benefit. A small study done in 2012 followed a dozen people with type 1 diabetes over 88 hours. Those who walked after eating had about one-half the post-meal blood sugar excursion (fluctuation) as those who did not walk. This finding was also true for individuals without diabetes. “Walking significantly impacts postprandial [after meal] glucose excursions in healthy populations and in those with type 1 diabetes,” concluded the researchers.
  • Type 2 Benefits. In another 2012 study, each additional 2,600 steps taken daily by those with type 2 diabetes was associated with a 0.2 percent A1C reduction. (Taking 2,600 steps is just over a mile, or about 20 minutes of normal-paced walking.)
  • A third 2012 study suggests regular 20 minute walks have a substantial positive influence on the psychological well-being of those with type 2 diabetes.
  • In 2005, researchers followed 179 individuals with type 2 diabetes for a couple years, monitoring medication costs, insulin usage, and physical activity. Over the two years, investigators estimated a three-mile daily walk lowered drug costs by $550, and other medical expenses by $700. Also, walking reduced the number of participants requiring insulin by 25 percent.
  • Lowering Type 2 Risk. Ten years ago, an analysis of five studies - involving data from 301,221 people - showed the risk of developing type 2 diabetes was reduced 30 percent by walking at least 20 minutes per day, compared to those who walked very little.
  • Other research found picking up our pace can make a difference. A 1999 experiment involving 70,000 female nurses found those who took their walks at a normal pace (about one mile in 20 to 30 minutes) lowered their type 2 diabetes risk 14 percent. However, those who walked at a brisk pace (a mile in fewer than 20 minutes) had a 41 percent reduced risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

Although walking is a fundamental movement of our body, adding regular fitness walks to our routine might require some dietary or medication adjustments. Consulting with a doctor before walking is recommended for those who have been sedentary, and extra monitoring might be needed to determine how the added steps affect glucose levels.

Finding Our Natural Rhythm

Naturally, if we’ve been sitting a lot, we need to build our walking endurance gradually. However, once our pace and distance have comfortably increased we can consider turning our walk into a more intense workout by varying the pace. We could, for instance, exercise 30 minutes by sandwiching three-minute intervals of fast walking between three-minute intervals of slower walking.

Whatever pace and distance we choose, regular walking generally adds quality of life to our years. Maybe it helps us tune into our own internal, essential rhythms:

He could tell by the way animals walked that they were keeping time to some kind of music. Maybe it was the song in their own hearts that they walked to. ~ Laura Adams Armer, Waterless Mountain

Sources: Mayo Clinic; Diabetes Care/Journals; NCBI; Diabetes Care/Journals; JAMA Network; Diabetes Care/Journals; Adam Brown/Diatribe; Mercola Fitness
Photo credit: donjd2

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