According to a study presented at a conference held by a diabetes charity in the UK, taking a three-minute walk every thirty minutes can potentially improve blood sugar levels.
The study involved 32 individuals with type 1 diabetes, and it showed that their blood sugar levels decreased when they took brief walking breaks during a seven-hour period.
Diabetes UK stated that these short bursts of physical activity, also known as “activity snacks,” could provide a practical and cost-effective means of making positive changes. Type 1 diabetes affects approximately 400,000 people in the UK, and it occurs when the immune system attacks the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.
This results in the pancreas being unable to produce insulin, which can lead to high blood sugar levels. As a result, individuals with this condition must take regular insulin medication.
Prolonged elevated blood sugar levels can lead to complications such as kidney failure, heart attacks, and eye problems. Dr. Elizabeth Robertson, the Director of Research at Diabetes UK, which provided funding for the study, mentioned that individuals with type 1 diabetes have to deal with the continuous task of managing their blood sugar levels, which can be an exhausting and never-ending process.
She added: “It is incredibly encouraging that these findings suggest that making a simple, practical change – such as taking phone calls while walking, or setting a timer to remind you to take breaks – to avoid sitting for long periods – could have such a profound effect on blood sugar levels.
“We look forward to further research to understand the long-term benefits of this approach.”
Dr. Matthew Campbell, the lead researcher from the University of Sunderland, expressed his surprise at the significant outcomes achieved through low-intensity physical activity.
He mentioned that for some individuals with type 1 diabetes, “activity snacking” could serve as a critical initial step towards adopting a more consistent exercise routine, while for others, it could be a straightforward measure to assist in controlling blood glucose levels.
He added: “Importantly, this strategy does not seem to increase the risk of potentially dangerous blood glucose lows which are a common occurrence with more traditional types of physical activity and exercise.”
A preliminary trial involving 32 adults with type 1 diabetes was conducted to investigate the effects of taking regular breaks from sitting.
The trial has not been published yet. During the trial, the participants completed two seven-hour sessions, one where they remained seated for the entire duration and another where they took three-minute bouts of light-intensity walking (at their own pace) every 30 minutes throughout the seven hours.
The participants’ blood sugar levels were continuously monitored for 48 hours from the beginning of each session, and their food intake and insulin treatment remained the same during both sessions.
The trial showed that taking regular walking breaks resulted in lower average blood sugar levels (6.9 mmol/L) over the 48-hour period, compared to uninterrupted sitting (8.2 mmol/L).
The walking breaks also increased the duration during which the participants’ blood sugar levels were within a desirable range. Dr. Campbell, the lead researcher, plans to conduct larger studies over a more extended period to gain a better understanding of the benefits of this approach.
He added: “The reality is simple ways of encouraging moving more through the day should benefit the vast majority of people.”