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Walking for Tighter Glucose Control

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Research shows that starting a walking program can help people with type 2 diabetes achieve tighter glucose control. A study by Italian researchers found that sedentary diabetes participants who began walking about 30 minutes a day lowered their hemoglobin A1c levels by 0.4% after two years. The walkers also experienced marked improvements in cholesterol, triglycerides (a type of fat in the blood), protective high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, and blood pressure.

How Much, How Hard? Most people with diabetes can follow the American Heart Association and American College of Sports Medicine recommendation to get at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on most, and preferably all, days of the week or at least 20 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity three days a week. "Moderate" activity is defined as equivalent to walking at a pace of 3 to 4 miles per hour.

But what does "moderate" walking feel like? Try to achieve a "target heart range" that's between 50 and 70% of your maximum heart rate (MHR), which is an estimate of how fast your heart would beat at the very peak of physical exertion. This formula may seem a bit complicated at first, but it can help you find an appropriate walking pace for your age that provides solid health benefits.


  • First, determine your MHR by subtracting your age from the number 220. MHR is 158 (220-62 = 158).

  • Now determine your target heart range by first multiplying your MHR by 0.5 then multiplying it by 0.7. Example: If you are 62, your target heart range during exercise is between 79 and 111 beats per minute (158 x 0.5 = 79; 158 x 0.7 = 111).


    Once you know your target heart range, stop in the middle of your next walk and check your heart rate. Using your middle and index fingers, find your pulse at the base of your wrist or on the side of your neck. Count the beats for 15 seconds (the first beat counts as zero). Take the total and multiply by four to determine your heart rate. Are you within your target heart range?


    When first starting out, aim for the low end of your target heart range. Once you have checked your heart rate during exercise a few times you will come to know what the proper intensity feels like.

As an alternative to using this formula, you can purchase a heart rate monitor, which does the work for you. Or you can follow some simple rules of thumb that will keep you moving at a healthy clip:


  • Walk as though you're running late to catch a bus or plane, but not so fast that you can't talk and keep up a conversation.

  • If you don't break a sweat during a workout, chances are you aren't walking fast enough.

  • Start counting. According to a study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, walking at a pace equal to roughly 100 steps per minute produces a moderate degree of physical exertion. (If keeping track of steps is too hard, use a pedometer.)


Posted in Diabetes on November 4, 2010

Medical Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute for the advice of a physician. Click here for additional information: Johns Hopkins Health Alerts Disclaimer

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