Faster-paced walking lowered blood sugar levels in study
Any exercise can help trim belly fat for obese and sedentary people, but to reap other health benefits, they’ll need to ramp up the effort, a new study says.
Researchers found that when middle-aged, obese adults moved regularly—even with just a half-hour of slow walking—they drop a few pounds and shed a couple of inches from their waistlines.
But to lower people’s blood sugar levels, higher-intensity exercise was needed. Over time, lower blood sugar levels could reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.
For this study, higher-intensity didn’t mean boot camp classes or cross-fit. “The people in this study were middle-aged, sedentary and abdominally obese,” said lead researcher Robert Ross, an exercise physiologist at Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada. “We didn’t have them running. ‘High-intensity’ just meant walking briskly on a treadmill. It was very doable.”
Ross and colleagues recruited 300 people in their 40s and 50s who were abdominally obese and led relatively sedentary lifestyles. They then randomly assigned everyone to a control group that remained sedentary or one of three exercise groups. The exercisers had five supervised sessions a week for six months. One group did a low amount of low-intensity activity (a half-hour of slow walking); another group did the low-intensity regimen, but for an hour. The third exercise group got higher-intensity exercise, in this case, faster-paced walking.
The fast walkers burned the same number of calories as their slower-paced peers who walked for an hour, but they did it in 40 minutes. After six months, all three exercise groups had lost a small amount of weight and one or two inches from their waistlines, on average. But only the higher-intensity group showed an improvement in blood sugar levels.
“Will this regimen, if performed for years, lower the risk of type 2 diabetes?” Ross asked. “We don’t know. But I like the chances.”
Researchers say the new findings, reported in the March 3 edition of Annals of Internal Medicine, are ”good news” for overweight couch potatoes, which describes a large number of North Americans, Ross noted.
“This means you have options,” he said. “If your primary goal is to lose some weight, all of these exercise regimens worked. If you want to better manage blood sugar, higher-intensity is better. If you want to improve cardiovascular fitness, all of these worked, but higher-intensity was optimal.”