Managing Blood Glucose with Exercise Snacking

An “exercise snack” is a short burst of brisk exercise. Exercise snacking is a series of brisk snacks with recovery periods sandwiched between them.

Scientists are finding that exercise snacking (ES) before the day’s main meals improves blood sugar control in people with insulin resistance. This is great news for those who prefer their exercise in bite-sized pieces.

ES and Glucose

The ES trial in a recent study consisted of six one minute bouts of fast walking on an incline treadmill, with a one minute recovery of slow walking between. The ES was completed 30 minutes prior to breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

During a separate trial, the same individuals treadmill-walked at a moderate pace for 30 continuous minutes, a half hour before the evening meal.

The clear “winner” for glucose control in this study was ES. It had a more significant lowering effect on postprandial glucose, and on glucose levels over the following 24 hours. The researchers believe ES can be especially helpful to insulin resistant individuals who experience marked after-meal glucose highs.

Diving Deeper

Some study particulars:

  • The participants in this study were in the early stages of insulin resistance.
  • Each trial period was five days long, and glucose readings were taken during the middle three days: a base line day, the exercise day, and the day after exercise.
  • The participants ate the same diet during each trial period.
  • All exercise sessions included five minutes of warm-up, and three minutes of cool-down activity.

A third trial period used six one minute exercise bouts that alternated between fast walking and working with resistance bands, plus one minute recovery between each bout. This was done a half hour before breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

The improved glucose control of this combination exercise trial was slightly better than ES alone, but was far more physically taxing according to participant report.

Short and Metabolically Sweet

Knowledge of the effectiveness of short exercise intervals is not new. Four years ago scientists found that ten minutes of brisk exercise triggers favorable metabolic changes, including glucose stabilization, that continue for at least sixty more minutes.

Since we know human metabolism responds favorably to short intervals of exercise, it is not surprising that it may benefit those with insulin resistance. More research is needed to validate the recent study results, but that does not mean exercise snacking has to wait.

Naturally, if you have been sedentary, you will need to increase the briskness of exercise snacks gradually. Talk to your doctor before changing your diabetes management or exercise routine.

Sources: Diabetalogia; mercola
Photo credit: Nick Page

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