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 new research.
Research has consistently found that getting regular physical activity and avoiding being sedentary can have substantial health improvements for people with type 2 diabetes.
In this new study, 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 conclusio, the researchers noted that the risk of falling should be considered among older patients, and stair exercise should be individualised.
The study was published in the BMJ Open Diabetes Research and Care.

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