How Can Walking Help People With Diabetes?

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Taking a walk might be one of the best things you can do if you have diabetes. Walking not only improves the way in which your body responds to insulin but also reduces abdominal fat, which is linked to insulin resistance. Walking can also make your muscles take up glucose much better. So get your walking shoes on and tell diabetes to go take a walk!

There’s no doubt you can walk your way to good health. Walking makes your muscles and bones stronger, burns calories, and lifts your mood. It can also bring down your risk of heart disease and high blood pressure.1 Turns out, walking can also go a long way in controlling your blood sugar levels. Before you lace up, let’s take a look at how a walk can help you if you are at risk of developing diabetes.

Walking Raises Insulin Sensitivity For Up To 24 Hours

Type-2 diabetics typically suffer from a reduced sensitivity to insulin. Aerobic exercises of moderate intensity like walking impacts the way our body uses and regulates glucose. They can increase the amount of glucose taken in by the cells in response to signals from insulin, the hormone essential for glucose metabolism. This improvement in the response to insulin (insulin sensitivity) can last up to 24 hours after exercise.2

Walking Makes Muscles Take Up Glucose Better

Muscular contractions, as a result of exercise, can move glucose into working muscles directly, without the need for insulin; this effect can last for a few hours after walking.3

Daily Walking Lowers Abdominal Fat

It has been found that visceral fat, or abdominal fat, is linked with an increased release of a protein called retinol binding protein 4, which in turn increases insulin resistance.4 Regular walking can reduce abdominal fat and thereby also improve insulin resistance.5

Walking For 30 Mins Daily Cuts Diabetes Risk By 30%

According to research, 30 minutes of brisk walking every day can lower your risk for diabetes by 30%.6 It makes also sense to add walking to your routine to manage diabetes. As one study showed, people with type 2 diabetes who walked for 30 minutes immediately lowered their glucose levels by 2.2 mmol/l.7

Walking For 1 Mile Daily Lowers Mortality In Diabetics

That’s not all – diabetics who walk at least 1 mile a day reduce their mortality risk by half compared to diabetics who don’t walk.8

Walking Away From Diabetes: 5 Things You Need To Know

1. Walk At A Fixed Hour Daily

Stick to a routine as much as possible. Go for a walk at the same time every day and get a consistent amount of exercise every time. This will make it easier to control your blood sugar.9 10:

2. Maintain Form And Begin Slow

Walk right in the proper form: chin up, shoulders back, and toes pointed ahead. Touch the ground with your heel first and then move your weight forward.

If you’re not used to it, start off slow. Begin with 15 minutes a day and increase your walking time by about 5 minutes every couple of weeks; if you walk less than 3 times a week, take at least a couple of weeks to increase the time. Your walk should ideally have three stages:

  • Warm up: Walking at a slow pace for about 5 minutes.
  • Walk briskly: Walking fast enough to increase your heart rate but not so fast that you’re not able to talk or breathe easily.
  • Cool Down: Slowing down your pace and letting your body cool down. You might also want to do some stretching exercises at the end of your walk, as this will improve your flexibility.

3. Walk For 150 Mins In A Week

You need about 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise (that quickens your breathing and heart rate) per week. So walking for 30 minutes 5 days a week will work. You can also do a brisk 10-minute walk thrice a day.

4. Walk With Weights

When you are comfortable with your walking routine, combine walking with some resistance training (e.g., lifting weights) which builds muscles. This can help you manage blood glucose levels better.11

5. Take Precautions

  • Check with your doctor before starting a walking program. As exercise affects your blood glucose levels, your doctor may make appropriate tweaks to your diet or medication.12
  • Check your blood sugar before and after the walk. Remember to carry some hard candy, juice, or any other fast-acting source of sugar with you.
  • Make sure that you wear good shoes that provide arch support and have flexible soles. Also, check your feet for any sores, blisters, or ulcers before and after a walk.

References   [ + ]

1, 10.Walking…A Step in the Right Direction, US National Institutes of Health.
2, 6.Hu, Frank B., Ronald J. Sigal, Janet W. Rich-Edwards, Graham A. Colditz, Caren G. Solomon, Walter C. Willett, Frank E. Speizer, and JoAnn E. Manson. “Walking compared with vigorous physical activity and risk of type 2 diabetes in women: a prospective study.” Jama 282, no. 15 (1999): 1433-1439.
3, 11.Colberg, Sheri R., Ronald J. Sigal, Bo Fernhall, Judith G. Regensteiner, Bryan J. Blissmer, Richard R. Rubin, Lisa Chasan-Taber, Ann L. Albright, and Barry Braun. “Exercise and type 2 diabetes the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Diabetes Association: joint position statement.” Diabetes care 33, no. 12 (2010): e147-e167.
4.Conroy, Rushika, Yomery Espinal, Ilene Fennoy, Siham Accacha, Claudia Boucher-Berry, Dennis E. Carey, Sharron Close et al. “Retinol binding protein 4 is associated with adiposity-related co-morbidity risk factors in children.” Journal of Pediatric Endocrinology and Metabolism 24, no. 11-12 (2011): 913-919.
5.Miyatake, Nobuyuki, Hidetaka Nishikawa, Akie Morishita, Mie Kunitomi, Jun Wada, Hisao Suzuki, Kayo Takahashi, Hirofumi Makino, Shohei Kira, and Masafumi Fujii. “Daily walking reduces visceral adipose tissue areas and improves insulin resistance in Japanese obese subjects.” Diabetes research and clinical practice 58, no. 2 (2002): 101-107.
7.Rosenqvist, Tomas Fritz, Urban. “Walking for exercise? Immediate effect on blood glucose levels in type 2 diabetes.” Scandinavian journal of primary health care 19, no. 1 (2001): 31-33.
8.Tyler C., Deborah L. Wingard, Besa Smith, Donna Kritz-Silverstein, and Elizabeth Barrett-Connor. “Walking decreased risk of cardiovascular disease mortality in older adults with diabetes.” Journal of clinical epidemiology 60, no. 3 (2007): 309-317.
9.Diabetes and exercise. National Institutes of Health.
12.Living with type 2 diabetes, National Health Service.

Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.

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