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Just 2 minutes of walking after eating can help blood sugar, study says

Just 2 minutes of walking after eating can help blood sugar, study says

Going for a short walk after eating may help control your blood sugar.

Siam Pukkato/Adobe Stock

By Sandee LaMotte, CNN

For centuries, people in the sunny Mediterranean would get up after long, leisurely meals and take a walk, often to the town square to see neighbors and socialize. Walking is so much a part of that lifestyle it is listed as a foundation of the über-healthy Mediterranean diet.

That may be one of the reasons studies have found the Mediterranean diet can reduce the risk for diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease, stroke and some cancers -- all the while strengthening bones, improving brain health, warding off dementia and depression and helping with healthy weight loss.

Now you can add another reason to take a post-meal stroll -- it may lower your blood sugar.

That excursion doesn't need to take up a huge amount of your time either: Walking as little as two to five minutes after a meal can do the trick, according to a 2022 study in the journal Sports Medicine.

Standing after a meal can help, too, but not as much as putting one foot in front of the other, said study coauthor Aidan Buffey, a doctoral student in the physical education and sport sciences department at the University of Limerick in Ireland.

"Intermittent standing breaks throughout the day and after meals reduced glucose on average by 9.51% compared to prolonged sitting. However, intermittent light-intensity walking throughout the day saw a greater reduction of glucose by an average of 17.01% compared to prolonged sitting," Buffey told CNN via email.

"This suggests that breaking prolonged sitting with standing and light-walking breaks throughout the day is beneficial for glucose levels," he added.

Standing is good, but walking is better

The meta-analysis, published in February, analyzed seven studies comparing the impact of sitting, standing and walking on the body's insulin and blood sugar levels. People in the studies were asked either to stand or walk for two to five minutes every 20 to 30 minutes over the course of a full day.

"Between the seven reviewed studies, the total activity time throughout the observation was roughly 28 minutes with the standing and light walking breaks lasting between 2 to 5 minutes," Buffey said.

Standing was better than heading straight for the desk or the couch to sit when it came to blood sugar levels, but it didn't help lower insulin in the bloodstream, the analysis found.

However, if people went for a short walk after eating, their blood sugar levels rose and fell more gradually, and their insulin levels were more stable than either standing or sitting, the study noted.

Keeping blood sugars from spiking is good for the body as large spikes and fast falls can raise the risk for diabetes and heart disease, experts say. Studies have shown blood sugar levels will spike within 60 to 90 minutes after eating, so it's best to get moving soon after finishing a meal.

How does movement help? Muscles need glucose to function, so movement helps clear sugars from the bloodstream -- that's the reason why many runners rely on carbo-loading before a marathon or race, for example.

Want to get more out of your efforts than lower blood sugars? Step up your game to meet the minimum physical activity standards for Americans: 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity and two days of muscle strengthening activity a week.

"People who are physically active for about 150 minutes a week have a 33% lower risk of all-cause mortality than those who are physically inactive," the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes.

Translated, that means if you get up and move for just 21.43 minutes each day of the week, you cut your risk of dying from anything by one-third.

That's worth the effort, right?

The most physically active cities in the U.S.

The Most Physically Active Cities in the U.S.

The Most Physically Active Cities in the U.S.

Photo Credit: insta_photos / ShutterstockAs COVID-19 cases decline again, many public health restrictions are lifted, and more of life returns to normal, one interesting question for the months and years ahead is how the pandemic will permanently affect people’s habits and lifestyle.One example is fitness and physical activity. With many gyms, pools, and other recreational facilities closed or operating at limited capacity in 2020, the early COVID-19 pandemic raised concerns that lockdowns would decrease levels of physical activity. One study conducted early in the pandemic found that overall physical activity for adults was significantly lower than prior to the pandemic. Meanwhile, many at-home fitness products and services that boomed during the pandemic now face an uncertain future; while some consumers may be returning to their old gyms, others may simply be losing interest.The questions of whether and how much people are exercising post-pandemic are important because maintaining adequate levels of physical activity is a key component of individual and public health. Experts have identified a number of benefits associated with a physically active lifestyle, including reduced blood pressure, improved mood and energy levels, and better sleep. Physically active people are at lower risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and even some types of cancers. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) found that a lack of physical activity contributes to 10% of all premature deaths in the U.S.

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Physically active cities report lower rates of adverse health conditions

Physically active cities report lower rates of adverse health conditions

Additional data from the CDC appears to confirm how physical activity is associated with a reduction in other potential health risks. According to CDC data, the share of adults in each city who report being physically active has negative correlations with the share of adults reporting chronic health problems like obesity, diabetes, and high cholesterol. There are strong negative correlations for the incidences of obesity and diabetes, while the incidence of high cholesterol shows a more moderate relationship.

Western states have the most physically active adults

Western states have the most physically active adults

The share of adults who report engaging in physical activity also varies widely across states, with highly active states found in several regions of the country. Leading states for physically active adults include Colorado (80.9%), Washington (80.6%), Minnesota, (80.3%), and Vermont (79.8%). In contrast, states in the South show lower levels of physical activity. Southern locations like Mississippi (61.2%), Oklahoma (65%), Kentucky (66.6%), and Louisiana (67.5%) report the lowest levels of activity among their residents. While many of the most active states have excellent natural resources suited to active outdoor lifestyles, a more likely explanation is each state’s income levels. Research has found a correlation between higher levels of income and physical activity, and many top states have higher typical incomes than their less active peers. At the local level, many of the most active cities are found in these same active states, including metros like Seattle, Denver, and Minneapolis.The data used in this analysis is from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s PLACES: Local Data for Better Health . To determine the most physically active locations, researchers at ChamberOfCommerce.org calculated the share of adults who self-reported engaging in leisure-time physical activity such as running, calisthenics, golf, gardening, or walking for exercise. For context, researchers also included statistics on obesity, high cholesterol, diabetes, and depression.Here are the most physically active cities.

The most physically active small and midsize US cities

The most physically active small and midsize US cities

15. Long Beach, CA

15. Long Beach, CA

Photo Credit: Ingus Kruklitis / Shutterstock

  • Share of adults who are physically active: 75.3%
  • Share of adults who are obese: 27.5%
  • Share of adults with high cholesterol: 27.2%
  • Share of adults with diabetes: 10.5%
  • Share of adults with depression: 15.5%
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14. Charlotte, NC

14. Charlotte, NC

Photo Credit: digidreamgrafix / Shutterstock

  • Share of adults who are physically active: 76.8%
  • Share of adults who are obese: 29.5%
  • Share of adults with high cholesterol: 29.2%
  • Share of adults with diabetes: 10.7%
  • Share of adults with depression: 20.8%
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13. Oakland, CA

13. Oakland, CA

Photo Credit: cdrin / Shutterstock

  • Share of adults who are physically active: 77.2%
  • Share of adults who are obese: 27.6%
  • Share of adults with high cholesterol: 27.3%
  • Share of adults with diabetes: 10.8%
  • Share of adults with depression: 16.3%
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12. Virginia Beach, VA

12. Virginia Beach, VA

Photo Credit: Alexandr Junek Imaging / Shutterstock

  • Share of adults who are physically active: 77.4%
  • Share of adults who are obese: 30.4%
  • Share of adults with high cholesterol: 29.0%
  • Share of adults with diabetes: 8.9%
  • Share of adults with depression: 19.4%
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11. Albuquerque, NM

11. Albuquerque, NM

Photo Credit: turtix / Shutterstock

  • Share of adults who are physically active: 77.4%
  • Share of adults who are obese: 27.8%
  • Share of adults with high cholesterol: 25.5%
  • Share of adults with diabetes: 9.4%
  • Share of adults with depression: 19.0%
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10. San Jose, CA

10. San Jose, CA

Photo Credit: Uladzik Kryhin / Shutterstock

  • Share of adults who are physically active: 77.7%
  • Share of adults who are obese: 22.0%
  • Share of adults with high cholesterol: 25.5%
  • Share of adults with diabetes: 9.3%
  • Share of adults with depression: 13.6%
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9. Raleigh, NC

9. Raleigh, NC

Photo Credit: Farid Sani / Shutterstock

  • Share of adults who are physically active: 78.1%
  • Share of adults who are obese: 30.5%
  • Share of adults with high cholesterol: 28.9%
  • Share of adults with diabetes: 9.6%
  • Share of adults with depression: 20.9%
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8. Austin, TX

8. Austin, TX

Photo Credit: ShengYing Lin / Shutterstock

  • Share of adults who are physically active: 78.5%
  • Share of adults who are obese: 25.2%
  • Share of adults with high cholesterol: 30.5%
  • Share of adults with diabetes: 9.5%
  • Share of adults with depression: 19.3%
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7. San Diego, CA

7. San Diego, CA

Photo Credit: Lucky-photographer / Shutterstock

  • Share of adults who are physically active: 78.6%
  • Share of adults who are obese: 22.6%
  • Share of adults with high cholesterol: 27.3%
  • Share of adults with diabetes: 8.9%
  • Share of adults with depression: 17.8%
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6. Portland, OR

6. Portland, OR

Photo Credit: Bob Pool / Shutterstock

  • Share of adults who are physically active: 79.8%
  • Share of adults who are obese: 25.9%
  • Share of adults with high cholesterol: 25.8%
  • Share of adults with diabetes: 7.4%
  • Share of adults with depression: 25.6%
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5. Colorado Springs, CO

5. Colorado Springs, CO

Photo Credit: photo.ua / Shutterstock

  • Share of adults who are physically active: 80.1%
  • Share of adults who are obese: 24.4%
  • Share of adults with high cholesterol: 28.8%
  • Share of adults with diabetes: 7.2%
  • Share of adults with depression: 20.1%
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4. Denver, CO

4. Denver, CO

Photo Credit: Nicholas Courtney / Shutterstock

  • Share of adults who are physically active: 80.9%
  • Share of adults who are obese: 22.0%
  • Share of adults with high cholesterol: 26.2%
  • Share of adults with diabetes: 7.7%
  • Share of adults with depression: 18.4%
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3. San Francisco, CA

3. San Francisco, CA

Photo Credit: Bogdan Vacarciuc / Shutterstock

  • Share of adults who are physically active: 80.9%
  • Share of adults who are obese: 16.1%
  • Share of adults with high cholesterol: 26.8%
  • Share of adults with diabetes: 9.1%
  • Share of adults with depression: 14.5%
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2. Minneapolis, MN

2. Minneapolis, MN

Photo Credit: Checubus / Shutterstock

  • Share of adults who are physically active: 81.1%
  • Share of adults who are obese: 27.5%
  • Share of adults with high cholesterol: 25.7%
  • Share of adults with diabetes: 8.8%
  • Share of adults with depression: 22.8%
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1. Seattle, WA

1. Seattle, WA

Photo Credit: Jeremy Janus / Shutterstock

  • Share of adults who are physically active: 84.7%
  • Share of adults who are obese: 22.1%
  • Share of adults with high cholesterol: 27.3%
  • Share of adults with diabetes: 7.4%
  • Share of adults with depression: 23.5%
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Just 2 minutes of walking after eating can help blood sugar, study says

Going for a short walk after eating may help control your blood sugar.