Type 2 diabetes is a common condition, causing the level of sugar (glucose) in the blood to become too high. The symptoms are usually gradual and rarely cause any pain. If left untreated however, the condition can lead to serious health issues related to the eyes, heart and nerves. Research reveals there is one simple way to help keep blood sugar levels under control.
Older adults with type 2 diabetes who perform three minutes of stair climbing at one and two hours after a meal have lower post-meal blood sugar levels, according to research.
This is line with consistent evidence that supports the link between physical activity and improved health benefits for people type 2 diabetes.
As reported in Diabetes.co.uk, scientists from Toyooka Hospital Hidaka Medical Centre, Japan assessed 16 adults with type 2 diabetes, all of whom were free of microvascular or macrovascular complications and reported not regularly climbing stairs each day.
Participants were randomly assigned to two different sessions, with a gap of one to two weeks in between.
In the first sessions, participants ate a test meal for breakfast (chicken cream stew, crackers and pudding) following an overnight fast, and rested for 180 minutes except when performing three-minute stair exercise sessions at 60 and 120 minutes after the meal. All participants took their blood glucose medication as normal.
Each stair exercise comprised six continuous repetitions of climbing to a second floor at a rate of 80-110 steps/min followed by walking down slowly to the first floor.
In the second session, participants consumed the breakfast as normal but then rested without interruption for the whole 180 minutes.
The researchers monitored blood glucose levels and several other health markers during the study and compared them to blood samples at baseline and 60, 90, 120, 150 and 180 minutes after the meal.
There were minimal differences in blood sugar levels between the two groups at 60 minutes after the meal, but the exercise group experienced lower blood glucose as the session became longer.
Blood glucose levels at 150 minutes after the meal (30 minutes after the second stair exercise), in particular, were significantly lower than during the rest session.
The study team observed that blood lactate levels and heart rates were largely increased at the end of stair exercise, indicating that the intensity of the stair exercises was ‘hard’.
“Nevertheless, the participants performed [stair exercise] without serious symptoms … and the overall extent of physical effort estimated by the [ratings of perceived exertion] for [stair exercise] was at the ‘moderate’ level,” said the researchers.
In their conclusion, the researchers noted that the risk of falling should be considered among older patients, and stair exercise should be individualised.
According to the NHS, other ways to reduce blood glucose levels include:
- Change your diet – for example, you may be advised to avoid foods that cause your blood sugar levels to rise, such as cakes or sugary drinks
- Drink plenty of sugar-free fluids – this can help if you’re dehydrated
- If you use insulin, adjust your dose – your care team can give you specific advice about how to do this
It is also important to monitor your blood sugar level, said Mayo Clinic. This can be conducted at home, it explained: Routine blood sugar monitoring with a blood glucose meter is the best way to be sure that your treatment plan is keeping your blood sugar within your goal range. Check your blood sugar as often as your doctor recommends.
It added: “If you have any signs or symptoms of severe hyperglycemia — even if they’re subtle — check your blood sugar level. If your blood sugar level is 240 mg/dL (13 mmol/L) or above, use an over-the-counter urine ketones test kit.
“If the urine test is positive, your body may have started making the changes that can lead to diabetic ketoacidosis. You’ll need your doctor’s help to lower your blood sugar level safely.”