Two simple secrets to diabetes prevention and management

I know I write a lot about exercise, but if you’d just take my advice I could start writing about something else! Just kidding, of course. I’ll keep writing about exercise no matter what. It’s just that important — to every aspect of health.

But for a lot of people, it isn’t a lack of desire that holds them back from exercise. Rather, it’s confusion about how to do it most effectively. Maybe you’ve started to exercise but aren’t seeing the results you expected. Or maybe you aren’t even sure where to start.

Well, I just came across two new studies that shed some light on the logistics of exercise — especially in terms of reducing your risk of diabetes or managing the condition if you already have it.  

With the current diabetes epidemic, this new research is relevant to every single one of us. And it may just provide the answers we’ve been looking for to help us put a dent in this insidious disease. 

The best part is that these studies don’t just leave you with the same conclusion that exercise is important. Which, while true, isn’t very useful. Instead, these researchers provide actual advice you can put into practice starting today.  

In the first study, the researchers looked specifically at when people exercise. And what they found might be the secret to exercise success that we’ve all been looking for. 

That secret isn’t to choose one type of exercise versus another, or to exercise harder. It’s much simpler than that. To boost the anti-diabetes power of exercise, all you need to do is to time it right.  

Truth be told, I don’t know why we didn’t think about this before. We study the effects of food and exercise timing in athletes all the time. But this study looked at exercise timing specifically as it relates to diabetics. And, not surprisingly, found that it has a significant effect for them too. 

In the randomized crossover study, patients with type 2 diabetes either went for three 10-minute walks a day — one after each meal — or for one 30-minute walk a day. Same number of minutes in total. Same intensity. The only difference was the timing.

Results showed that when they walked after meals, people’s blood glucose levels dropped an average of 12 percent compared to walking once per day. While the effect was seen after any type of meal, it was most dramatic after high-carb meals (which diabetics shouldn’t be eating anyway, but that’s a topic for another time).  

Controlling blood sugar after meals is essential for people with type 2 diabetes. It can determine both glycemic control and cardiovascular risk. So being able to significantly impact it just by timing physical activity a little differently could be a breakthrough for diabetics.  

All it takes is a quick walk after each meal. What could be simpler than that?  

The second study looked at the amount of exercise people need to prevent diabetes. Current exercise guidelines advise a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week, or about 30 minutes a day over 5 days. But is that the ideal amount of exercise for lowering diabetes risk? 

To find out, researchers analyzed 23 different studies conducted worldwide that included more than 1.2 million people without diabetes. And they found that non-diabetics who followed those guidelines — 150 minutes per week of moderate activity — had significantly lower risk of developing diabetes. In fact, their risk was reduced by 26 percent.  

Sounds impressive, right? Well here’s what’s even more impressive: That number jumped to more than 36 percent with 300 minutes a week of moderate physical activity — and all the way up to 53 percent for the most avid exercisers.

Basically, there’s a dose-dependent relationship between exercise and diabetes prevention: The more you do, the more benefit you’ll get.  

And even if you can’t hit that 150-minute/week goal, you’ll still be doing your body – and your blood sugar – a favor by doing SOMETHING. In this study, exercising less than the recommended 150 minutes per week had less of an effect. But the important thing is it still had an effect.

This is just more evidence that if you’re not exercising at all, you can cut your diabetes risk by getting started. It doesn’t have to be a lot, just get moving. And if you’re already scheduling time for exercise, can you manage to extend it by a few minutes each day? Every extra bit will make a difference when it comes to avoiding diabetes.

If you already have diabetes, be sure to get up and move for just 10 minutes after each meal. It could help you get your post-meal glucose levels in check, and that will set you on the path to better blood sugar control and heart health.  

The bottom line? Find some exercise you like and make it a priority. Consistently. And then maybe I’ll stop bugging you about it (but probably not).