How I'm Walking Away My Diabetes

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Medically reviewed in July 2021

When I was first diagnosed with type 2 diabetes 13 years ago, my doc gave me an overview of the disease, prescribed a few drugs and assigned me to a nurse educator. It was a quick session for such a major life change, but as I was leaving he offered up a nugget of advice that's stuck with me:

"Start going for walks. It can really help you control your blood sugar, especially after meals," he said.

Many studies back up that advice. In addition to helping with overall glycemic control regular exercise like walking can help moderate post-meal blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. A study published in 2012 in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise reveals that a little walking may do the same for people who don't have the disease.

Turns out that even healthy, active people may experience elevated blood sugar levels when they don't exercise enough.

How do the researchers know this? They hooked continuous glucose monitors to volunteers who were generally healthy and active. The participants walked 13,000 steps a day on average. When they asked those volunteers to cool their heels and walk less than 5,000 steps a day, they noticed something interesting. By the third day, the volunteers' blood sugar levels were spiking after meals even though their bodies were producing insulin at higher levels.

The problem with these spikes, called post-prandial excursions, is that they are a known risk factor for cardiovascular events—and even death—regardless of whether a person has diabetes.

These post-meal spikes have plagued my efforts to control diabetes for years. They're the main reason I take fast-acting insulin at mealtimes. But when walks are part of my regular routine—as they are now because I’m walking to work these days—I don't have to take as much insulin and my blood sugar control is much better.

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