Over time, high blood sugar levels cause damage to blood vessels, which in turn leads to serious health problems and illnesses. However, according to diabetes expert Shannon Knapp from the Cleveland Clinic in the USA, even short walks can bring blood sugar back into a healthy range.
How do high blood sugar levels occur?
The body converts ingested carbohydrates into sugar (glucose). The pancreas normally releases insulin, which transports the glucose into the cells so that the body can use it as an energy source. If this is not the case, high blood sugar can result.
There are two typical causes of high blood sugar (hyperglycemia), with insulin playing a crucial role in each, according to Knapp.
Too little insulin or insulin resistance
For example, it is possible that the pancreas does not produce enough insulin. In such a case, the glucose remains in the bloodstream and increases the blood sugar level, which is a typical feature of type 1 diabetes, but also often occurs in type 2 diabetes, explains the expert.
When the body does not use insulin produced properly, this is known as insulin resistance. Such insulin resistance could contribute to high glucose levels in the blood. Insulin resistance usually occurs in type 2 diabetes, but can also occur in type 1 diabetes, explains Knapp.
Consequences of high blood sugar
Excessive blood sugar leads to damage to the blood vessels over time and once the blood vessels have been damaged, this can result, for example, in diabetes-related retinopathy, which can lead to blindness, says the expert.
In addition, diabetes-related nephropathy can also occur, which promotes kidney failure. Other possible consequences of damaged blood vessels include heart attacks, strokes and nerve damage (neuropathy).
In order to avoid health consequences, care must be taken to ensure that blood sugar is within a healthy range, this is particularly true for people with diabetes, emphasizes Knapp.
Walking lowers blood sugar
Blood sugar levels rise after eating, regardless of whether you have diabetes, and blood sugar levels are highest approximately 30 to 90 minutes after a meal. However, this increase is a natural reaction and is not a cause for concern unless blood sugar rises too much or remains at an unhealthy level, explains Knapp.
A meta-analysis also showed that a short walk after a meal can slow down the rise in blood sugar levels. Short walks after meals offer an effective way to positively influence blood sugar.
Exercise affects blood sugar after just a few minutes, and regular physical activity over time can help the body use insulin more effectively and reduce insulin resistance, which is often seen in diabetes.
Research has shown that walks lasting just two to five minutes can slightly lower blood sugar levels.
Risk of too much lowering of blood sugar?
If medication is taken to lower blood sugar levels, exercise can also lower blood sugar levels too much and low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) can also have dangerous consequences, warns the expert.
However, such hypoglycemia is unlikely to occur during a short walk. However, caution is advised during hard training, explains Knapp. If you have diabetes, your blood sugar level should generally be checked after and before any exercise.
According to Knapp, it is advisable to aim for a blood sugar level of around 100 mg/dL before and during exercise to be on the safe side. A value of less than 70 mg/dL (milligrams per deciliter) is in the hypoglycemic range.
This can quickly increase blood sugar
If blood sugar is too low, fast-acting carbohydrates can be taken to increase blood sugar levels, for example through juice, a spoonful of honey or special glucose tablets. In general, you should seek medical advice to design an effective plan to avoid hypoglycemia, the expert advises.
“If you have diabetes, healthy habits are important to keep your blood sugar in target range. This is true even if you are taking medication to regulate your blood sugar,” Knapp added in a press release.
Diet, exercise and stress reduction
In general, according to the expert, attention should be paid to diet, exercise and the avoidance or appropriate management of stress in order to maintain healthy blood sugar.
If you have diabetes, it is particularly important to know your own blood sugar levels. The blood sugar target range depends on when the last meal was eaten. For adults with diabetes, typical blood sugar target values before a meal are 80 to 130 mg/dL and the target values one to two hours after the start of the meal should be less than 180 mg/dL, said the expert.
A walk after eating can help stabilize blood sugar and insulin levels. This makes it easier to achieve healthy blood sugar target values. Even if you have diabetes, walks after meals can help reduce blood sugar spikes, concludes Knapp. (as)