Is It Obvious to Walk to Control Blood Sugar?

I discovered via self-tracking that I could get my fasting blood sugar much closer to optimal by walking an hour per day. This took me a year to figure out and I discovered it by accident. Phil commented that I could have learned the same thing more quickly by searching websites or asking my doctor.

Whether I was rediscovering the fairly obvious is important to me. This website by Janet Ruhl, who has diabetes, is named “How to get your blood sugar under control”. Its advice says nothing about exercise, much less walking. Here’s one reason why:

I [Ruhl] currently control my own diabetes using a fairly low carbohydrate diet and very low doses of fast acting insulin at meal time. . . . At one point I exercised daily for a year and got my body fat down to 24%, which put me into the “Fitness” category for a woman my age. Despite what my doctors had told me, weight loss and intense fitness didn’t do a thing for my blood sugars, which got worse.

Emphasis added. I too did recommended amounts of aerobic exercise. I too found my blood sugar was nevertheless unpleasantly high. The usual recommendation of aerobic exercise may make it less likely you will do the long low-intensity exercise (ordinary walking) that my results suggest works. You may think: I’ve already exercised. I’m tired.

“Be very paranoid about any new drug.”

8 Responses to “Is It Obvious to Walk to Control Blood Sugar?”

  1. Phil Says:

    I think we both agree that some people (and some websites) recommend moderate exercise, others don’t. It’s just a matter of degree.

    If I type [reduce blood sugar] into Google, the first site that comes up is which says “An easy way to lower blood sugar levels is to stay fit and healthy….This exercise does not need to be a grueling workout. Thirty minutes of exercise a day, even walking, will help to lower blood sugar levels. Walking to the store instead of taking the car is all that may be necessary to provide you with some much needed exercise.” Of course, that may not be bad advice for most people: just because you (Seth) seem to get more blood-sugar benefit more from moderate exercise than from vigorous exercise doesn’t mean that’s common.

    The second site I find is wisebread.com, which gives a list of “8 cheap ways to lower your blood sugar.” The very first one is “Exercise”, where it says “…Now, the results of this can depend on the medication that you take, but many diabetics find that if they have high blood sugar, a brisk 20 minute walk can lower their sugar. I’ve lowered mine by up to 40 points with just a half hour of walking.”

    The third site, though, squidoo.com, does only recommend “vigorous” exercise.

    And, as I mentioned in a comment a week or two ago, when I did a more specific search for “pre-diabetes,” most of the top hits recommended either “walking” or “brisk walking.”

    I’m not sure why it’s so important to you, whether or not the advice to walk or get other moderate exercise in order to reduce blood sugar is already widely know. It clearly _is_ widely know, but it is not _universally_ known. Does it matter, really, whether this advice is given by 30%, 50%, or 70% of the most popular websites, or the extent to which the number varies whether you search for [reduce blood sugar], [control blood sugar], [treat diabetes], [treat pre-diabetes], etc.? You discovered something that is useful to you, that is already widely known…that’s great! What’s the problem?

    If you think that moderate exercise is good but intense exercise isn’t, that’s a stronger claim — lots of these places say any exercise is good, _including_ moderate exercise, but few of them say that _only_ moderate exercise is beneficial. So if that claim is true, then you might be onto something more important. But I think you’re doing an awful lot of generalizing from a very small sample if that is your claim.

  2. Phil Says:

    Sorry about the mistake in the first link in my previous post, but I have no way to edit and fix it.

  3. TalkingRat Says:

    It’s possible that healthcare professionals know that ordinary walking improves glucose, but they advise patients to do aerobic exercise because of the secondary benefit of fitness. They may also assume that people will be reluctant to commit to a longer exercise time.

    But if they know, they really ought to give patients the choice of time vs. activity level. There seem to be a lot of people who find it painful to move vigorously, and it may be easier to get started with moderate exercise, even though they need to walk longer.

    The 10,000 steps pedometer campaign comes to mind as a recognized alternative to aerobic exercise.

  4. Nathan Myers Says:

    I’m still curious to see whether small amounts of cinnamon make any difference in your blood sugar level.

    Every mention I find of the effects of cinnamon intake on type-2 diabetic blood sugar level carries on at length about the terrifying toxicity of certain components of cinnamon. We know from the way the effect was discovered — test subjects trying to raise their blood sugar by eating apple pie — that the useful dose is so small that any such toxicity is negligible. It must gall them that they can’t outlaw cinnamon.

  5. Gian Says:

    The normal fasting sugar of 84 is typical of healthy people not on low-carb diet. The healthy low-carb eater may having fasting sugar of 100 and still have HbA1c of 4.4% since his sugars dont increase much after eating. See HyperLipid blog for details.

    The thing is whether walking improves the HbA1c or equivalently postprandial sugar level. Fasting level per se is not much indicative of subtle problems. People may have abnormal postprandial sugars but still have normal (even 84) fasting.

  6. The 50 Best Health Blogs Says:

    Jenny’s Diabetes Update blog is excellent, and she does a great job of exposing bad science.

  7. Josh Says:

    In my experience with high blood sugar(some cases of blurry vision last winter), aerobic exercise like jogging and walking was the most effective way for me to lower my blood sugar, eating less sugar simply didn’t do the trick. I imagine it was still swimming around my bloodstream, and blood sugar is such a sensitive thing that once you’re used to high blood sugar you forget what feels right and what feels bad. I’d say stopping it before it gets to that point is the best way to prevent developing more severe form of diabetes. But I’m no doctor or anything and that’s just my opinion

  8. Johno Says:

    interesting.. I usually control my high blood sugar by avoiding white carbs and exercising regularly.