Studies show walking is one of the best ways to control blood sugar, especially in people over age 65. But not all walks are created equal—here are our tips for getting the most out of your walking exercise:
- Walking after a meal
Studies show regularly walking about 10 minutes after a meal can reduce risk of developing type 2 diabetes by up to 30%. This is because after we eat a large meal, the carbohydrate sugars from the meal enter the bloodstream first and raise blood sugar. If we don’t use that blood sugar right away, it stays in the blood for a bit—which can raise blood pressure—and then is converted to fat. If we use that blood sugar right away, however, it can get burned through in our muscles and never stored as fat. So after a large meal, make it a habit to go on a walk. Even a 10-minute stroll can make a huge difference to your health.
- Get some vitamin D
Making your walk, a walk in the sunshine, will have other benefits besides just the exercise. Going out during sunlit hours can help your body synthesize vitamin D—something people over the age of 50 tend to be deficient in. There are also other chemicals in sunlight that can help reduce blood pressure. For people with trouble sleeping, a walk in the sunlight can also help reset circadian rhythm. For best results go out into the sun in the morning and walk for at least 15 minutes. If the sun is intense, stay safe by wearing protective coverings like a hat or mineral sunscreen and sunglasses. AND stay hydrated!
- Consider air pollution
Unfortunately, the air quality is not very good in many places, especially urban areas. During the time of COVID-19 it’s especially important to protect ourselves from air pollution. Avoiding streets with busy car traffic helps, as does walking somewhere green like a park. Sometimes different times of day carry different risks of air pollution because of traffic, weather and temperature patterns. Checking an app like AirVisual can help give you ideas for what times are the safest for an outdoor walk.
- Walk somewhere green
Studies find walking in a green area like a nature reserve, park, or even just a street lined with trees and vegetation offers extra health benefits beyond just the exercise. Just seeing natural landscapes can reduce stress, drop blood pressure and leave us feeling calmer. While any walk is beneficial to health, walking somewhere green will be less polluted, more relaxing and more motivating.
- Consider going from walking to jogging
It’s a myth that running for exercise is only for the young—we can learn how to be joggers at any age! The best way to switch over from walking to jogging is to go on a normal walking route and add small bursts of jogging to the middle of it. Even just a 30-second jog in the middle of a walk will get the body used to the higher-intensity exercise. Then, over time, it’s possible to increase the amount of time spent jogging and decrease the amount of time walking until you are a jogger! For more information on making this transition look up programs like Couch to 5k. Always warm up with a 10-minute walk or longer before starting to jog as a beginner.