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In my neighborhood, I often see an older couple taking a leisurely walk in the early evening. I see these two day after day… when I’m coming home from work, while I’m carpooling kids to their sports practices, and (on a good day) when I’m on my way to the gym. This couple looks very healthy and relaxed. It makes me wonder if maybe these sidewalk striders know something I don’t.

In fact, research suggests that they do. A recent study released in the American Diabetes Association’s Journal of Diabetes Care found that taking a 15-minute moderate intensity walk about 30 minutes after each meal can significantly reduce blood sugar spikes for three hours after eating. Reducing blood sugar spikes decreases a person’s risk of developing type-2 diabetes and reduces cardiovascular risks associated with high blood sugar. The study was conducted on subjects age 60 and over with moderately elevated blood sugar levels.

Now, it is not exactly front-page news that walking is good for you. However, it is interesting that this study found that blood sugar was more controlled in the study group that walked 15 minutes 3 times a day after meals, compared to another study group that took a 45-minute walk once a day. This is great news for those who have diabetes or pre-diabetes who are not at a fitness level that enables them to walk for longer periods of time. Breaking walks into smaller increments, and timing them 30 minutes after meals is actually more beneficial for lowering blood sugar than taking one longer walk.

The American Heart Association (AHA) also recommends walking in 10-15 minute increments 2-3 times per day, at least five days per week as a way to meet their recommendation of 150 minutes per week of moderate activity. In addition to lowering your risk for type-2 diabetes, this after-meal walking strategy can:

  • Lower your risk of heart disease
  • Improve your blood pressure
  • Improve your cholesterol levels
  • Lower your risk of obesity
  • Reduce your stress levels and improve your mental well-being
  • Reduce your risk of developing osteoporosis
  • Reduce your risk of developing breast and colon cancer

We can all take a cue from my wise neighbors. Take a 15 minute walk after your meals, and you will be taking small steps toward a healthier you.

– Amy McGowan, RN

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