Move It After Your Meal!

Move It After Your Meal!

Do you exercise? Whether you exercise or not, there is a good chance you already know that it is good for your health.

The American Diabetes Association Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes 2018 recommends, “Most adults with type 1 and type 2 diabetes should engage in 150 minutes or more of moderate-to-vigorous intensity aerobic activity per week, spread over at least 3 days/week, with no more than 2 consecutive days without activity.” 1

Exercise helps increase insulin sensitivity for approximately 24 to 48 hours by increasing glucose transport into working muscles and by replacing muscle glycogen (stored glucose) that was used during exercise.

Did you know that exercising after a meal may help you reach your post meal blood glucose target?

Post meal blood glucose targets from different organizations:

  • American Diabetes Association (ADA): <180 mg/dL 1-2 hours after meal
  • International Diabetes Federation (IDF): <160 mg/dL 1-2 hour after meal
  • American Association of Clinical Endocrinologist (AACE): < 140 mg/dL 2 hours after meal

What are recent publications reporting?

  • In an article from Frontiers in Endocrinology, researchers Erickson, Jenkins, and McCully report: “Interventional studies have shown that reducing postprandial glucose improves glycemic control and leads to reductions in cardiovascular disease risk in people with type 2 diabetes.”2
    • Exercising soon after a meal help lessens the peak blood sugar spike that typically occurs within 90 minutes of eating thus protecting blood vessels from damaging glucose concentrations.2
  • Another article from Sports Medicine, suggests that individuals with type 2 diabetes increase physical activity after their largest meal of the day.3
    • “Postprandial exercise may be an effective way to improve glucose control in individuals with type 2 diabetes. The most consistent benefits were seen in long-duration (≥ 45 min), moderate-intensity aerobic exercise.”3
  • A 2016 study published by Diabetologia, showed that individuals instructed to walk for 10 minutes within 5 minutes of finishing each meal had a greater reduction in post meal blood sugar levels compared to those individuals who walked for 30 minutes per day at an unspecified time.4

Take away points and words of caution:

  • The timing of exercise, in particular following meals (especially higher carb meals) may offer a greater benefit than previously realized.
  • More research is still needed to determine the duration of exercise needed after a meal that will provide the greatest benefit.
  • Additional glucose monitoring using a blood glucose meter or a continuous glucose monitor will help you understand how exercise impacts your post meal glucose levels.
  • Certain medications increase the risk of hypoglycemia with exercise further increasing the risk of hypoglycemia. A source of quick acting glucose (i.e. glucose tablets) should always be on hand when you exercise.
    • Speak with your physician about your risk for hypoglycemia and proper treatment.
  • Speak with your physician before starting any exercise program.
This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Type2Diabetes.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.
View References
  1. Lifestyle Management: Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes-2018. Diabetes Care 2018; 41(Suppl. 1): S38–S50.
  2. Erickson M, Jenkins N, McCully K. Exercise After You Eat: Hitting The Postprandial Glucose Target. Frontiers in Endocrinology 2017; 8: 1-5.
  3. Borrow A, Zieff G, Battaglini C, Stoner L. The Effects of Postprandial Exercise on Glucose Control in Individuals with Type 2 Diabetes: A Systematic Review. Sports Medicine 2018; 1-13. Diabetologia 2016; 59: 2572–2578.

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