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A study has found a potential way to enhance the effect of exercise on controlling blood glucose levels and therefore helping with the management of type 2 diabetes.

New Zealand researchers attached accelerometers to 41 participants with type 2 diabetes, who had also been fitted with continuous glucose monitors which measured glucose levels every five minutes.

These participants were then tasked to go for either a 30 minute walk once per day, or to walk for ten minutes after each meal. With three main meals, this meant that the number of minutes’ exercise was the same for both groups, and therefore the experiment compared how structuring those minutes throughout the day would improve blood glucose control.

When they compared the walking with the participants’ blood glucose levels, the researchers found that, on average, when the participants walked for ten minutes after each meal, their blood glucose dropped by 12 per cent more than when strolling for 30 minutes all at once.

“Most of this effect came from the highly significant 22 per cent reduction in blood sugar when walking after evening meals, which were the most carbohydrate heavy, and were followed by the most sedentary time,” explained Dr Andrew Reynolds, who led the study.

The researchers concluded that taking a walk after meals was beneficial, and that it highlights a change that could be made to health guidelines. Taking a short walk after a meal not only helped with management of blood glucose levels, but may have been an easier exercise regime to stick to compared to a 30-minute stroll.

However, the findings do not indicate that walking at other times throughout the day Would not be beneficial, merely that walking after a meal gave more significant improvements in blood glucose levels.

The study was published online in the journal Diabetologia.