Walking for 15 minutes starting a half hour after each daily meal. It might be the best thing you can do to elevate your health and well-being. Here’s the science behind this claim.
Researchers at George Washington University and the US Department of Agriculture (DiPrieto et al. 2013) conducted a pilot study with ten inactive, obese 60-year old or older volunteers with pre-diabetes. All subjects went through three exercise protocols four weeks apart: 1) 15 minutes of brisk walking half an hour following breakfast, lunch, and dinner, 2) 45 minutes of brisk walking at 10:30 am, and 3) 45 minutes of brisk walking at 4:30 pm.
Researchers found that the timing of exercise influenced the subjects’ ability to metabolize blood sugar. More specifically, walking three times daily for 15 minutes after each meal each was equally effective as one 45-minute exercise period at 10:30 am for improving average blood sugar levels over a 24-hour period. Three 15-minute postmeal walks significantly controlled blood sugar for three hours postmeal, while the other exercise protocols did not. Of the brief three walks a day, the after-dinner walk appeared to provide the greatest benefit for overall daily blood sugar control. Three short bouts of exercise may be more practical for some people than one long period. As a bonus, three, 15-minute postmeal walks would probably achieve a goal of 10,000 daily steps, which is recommended by exercise scientists.
Based on this research, I propose the 15 x 3 Plan to improve your health. It’s breathtakingly simple: Every day, take a brisk 15-minute walk starting a half hour after each of your 3 daily meals. That’s it!
While the Plan is simple, the above research and other studies show that it might be the best thing you can do to get started on the path to lifetime health and well-being. Why not make it a part of your daily routine? How about a morning and evening walk with your significant other and a lunchtime walk with a co-worker - if you’re working in an office, or with a friend, or with a neighbor if you’re retired?
Consider the benefits of following the Plan:
- Reduced risk of type 2 diabetes as a result of lower spikes in blood sugar following each meal. Lowering the height of blood sugar spikes may be more important than reducing the average blood sugar level of the course of a day.
- Reduced risk of type 2 diabetes as a result of lower average blood sugar level for three hours after each meal and over the entire day. Lower average blood sugar will help prevent insulin resistance, a primary cause of type 2 diabetes.
- Lower average blood glucose lowers the level of HbA1c, a protein that integrates the concentration of your blood sugar over a three-month period. Recent research (Belsky et al. 2015) showed that HbA1c is the biomarker (of 18 studied) that most strongly predicted increased biological aging over time in young adults.
- Belsky et al. (2015) also identified lack of cardiorespiratory fitness, which is offset by physical exercise, as the second-strongest predictor of biological aging.
- Belsky et al. (2015) found that the third-strongest predictor of biological aging was waist-to-hip ratio, indicating a preponderance of belly fat and love handles. Physical exercise can help burn calories and reduce the likelihood of excess belly fat accumulation. Eating better is also important in losing belly fat.
You really can’t afford not to take care of yourself, assuming you want to enjoy the benefits of lifelong health and well-being. Why not give the 15 x3 Plan a try? It could change your life for the better.
Loretta DiPietro, Andrei Gribok, Michelle S. Stevens, Larry F, Hamm, and William Rumpler. 2013. Three 15-min Bouts of Moderate Postmeal Walking Significantly Improves 24-h Glycemic Control in Older People at Risk for Impaired Glucose Tolerance. Diabetes Care 36:3262-3268.
Daniel W. Belsky, Avshalom Caspic, Renate Houts, Harvey J. Cohen, David L. Corcoran, Andrea Danese, HonaLee Harrington, Salomon Israel, Morgan E. Levine, Jonathan D. Schaefer, Karen Sugden, Ben Williams, Anatoli I. Yashin, Richie Poulton, and Terrie E. Moffitt. 2015. Quantification of biological aging in young adults. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science 112(30):E4104-10