Walking Protects Against Blood Sugar Spikes and Diabetes

Walking is routinely promoted as the best and most accessible exercise, known to improve blood sugar levels and lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.  Large muscles, like those in the leg, when well developed and put to use, effectively metabolise sugar rather than letting it build up in the bloodstream.  Normal spikes in blood sugar which occur throughout the day, particularly after meals, are greatly reduced by a substantial walking programme.  We should all be aiming for blood sugar stability to cut down on our risk of chronic degenerative diseases.

Take the case of Gerry, who was in his seventies when he was diagnosed with diabetes.  A professional classical musician, he had always eaten well and lived moderately but exercise had not been a priority.  The preferred treatment offered was insulin injections, which he rejected in favour of trying to control the condition with diet and exercise.  He walked twice a day, every day, up to 10 kilometres, not particularly quickly and always enjoying a chat along the way.  He monitored his blood sugar levels and was aware that any decrease in his exercise regime almost immediately sent his blood sugar levels spiralling.  Gerry managed his condition in this way for nearly 20 years, even when he needed the aid of a walking stick.  He never needed to inject insulin.

Researchers from the University of Missouri have recently shown that healthy people who decrease their general movement for as little as 3 days experience more unhealthy spikes and swings in blood sugar levels after meals.  In a study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise subjects using pedometer monitoring were required to cut their daily number of steps to less than half (under 5000 steps per day).  They essentially embraced the average sedentary western lifestyle of avoiding stairs, having their lunch delivered and lying around a lot.  Each day of inactivity led to a more dangerous blood sugar profile, with peaks increasing around 26% after meals compared to pre-trial levels.  Researchers claim that an increase in blood sugar spikes is an indicator that there are problems in the making long before we put on weight or lose general fitness.

So what happens if you are forced into temporary inactivity? In the short term it’s not a worry but it’s good to know that blood sugar metabolism will return to normal quite quickly once activity is resumed.  What we need to avoid is a “lingering” state of inactivity, according to researcher, John Thyfault.  He points out, too, that movement doesn’t have to involve running a marathon.  Small doses are valuable.  Although some suggest we should ideally aim to walk about 10,000 steps a day, or about 8.5 kilometres, Dr Thyfault advises us to just make sure we keep moving.

As for Gerry’s diet secret……he took to snacking on pumpkin seeds.


  1. You have enough sytpmoms to justify a visit to a doctor. While we here on answers have all the answers the only one to tell you is a doctor. Low blood sugar in me causes much irritation, very tired and split vision(eyes are not in sinc). High blood sugar(same as untreated diabetic) blurry vision, very tired, sluggish, excessive hunger and extreme thirst(and going to the john too ofter) Hypoglycemia can lead to diabetes. Was this answer helpful?

  2. Hi Adnan. Helpful post thanks reminding us of the importance of medical checkups. Gerry, subject of this post, never stopped seeing his endocrinologist, who monitored his diabetes. But he also chose to embrace positive natural ways to work in conjunction with his doctor to best manage his condition and decrease his dependency on pharmaceuticals.

  3. Hey, I just stopped in to visit your blog and thought I’d say thank you.

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