Best Time of Day to Walk

Walking is an easy, light intensity exercise and offers benefits for people with type 2 diabetes. But what’s the best time of day to walk? Below we talk about reasons why you may want to walk in the morning or evening, and the importance of timing walks after meals. But overall, the best time for walking is whenever you can take those walks regularly.

What Is Diabetes

Uncontrolled Blood Glucose Levels

Diabetes (diabetes mellitus) is a condition where glucose (or sugar) in the blood exceeds normal or healthy levels.

This is due to inadequate insulin produced by the pancreas (“organ dysfunction”) and/or the body’s inability to use insulin effectively (“insulin resistance”). 

Insulin is an important hormone made by the pancreas and absorbs blood glucose into the cells. But when there isn’t enough insulin, glucose stays in the blood and over time leads to complications.

person taking insulin
Woman taking insulin

Prediabetes is the early stage of type 2 diabetes. There are no obvious symptoms so it’s important to get screened for prediabetes, especially if you have risk factors including obesity or have a history of gestational diabetes. 

How to Lower Blood Sugar Levels

Diet is an important factor in controlling blood sugar.

The amount of carbs you eat will impact blood sugar levels. Generally speaking, lowering your carbohydrate intake will lower blood glucose levels. 

Staying active and exercise are also effective in lowering blood sugar because it uses carbs for energy, which helps keep blood glucose within normal range.

Staying active also helps with insulin sensitivity, weight and fat loss, and increasing muscles – all of which can reduce the risk of other diseases.

Health Benefits of Walking for Diabetes

walking on a treadmill

Helps Lower Blood Sugar Levels

Making walking a part of your daily routine is a great way to lower and control blood sugar levels. Regular brisk walking is a moderate exercise that uses blood glucose for energy, which then helps lower blood glucose levels.

If you don’t exercise regularly, even taking short walks will improve your blood glucose as shown by this study from the American Diabetes Association.

The study showed that short bouts of light intensity walking or simple resistance activities helped slow post-meal blood glucose and insulin increases.

Low Intensity Exercise

Walking is a low intensity exercise making it a good fit for any age and fitness level.

People with diabetes can have trouble moving around because of extra weight or foot pain. This can make other types of exercises harder and could even prevent someone from starting to exercise at all.

This makes a walking routine a much better option because you control how easy or hard to go.

Starting with short walks or just walking at a slower pace can help if you have joint pain. And if you have a sedentary lifestyle, starting with just a 10-minute walk will greatly improve your physical activity.

Over time, making regular walks a part of your exercise program will help strengthen muscles that can help alleviate joint aches and regain mobility. From there you can work towards longer or more intense walks (like a brisk walk) to see more health benefits.

Doesn’t Make You Hungry

Walking actually doesn’t make you hungry, making it perfect if you’re trying to reach a healthy weight.

This study of overweight people found that after 40 minutes of moderate pace walking, their hunger didn’t change and did not need to eat more calories.

More intense workouts uses a lot of calories but they can often leave you hungrier and makes it easier to overeat. Because you’re less likely to overeat after walking, this can makes weight loss a lot easier.

Best Time of Day to Walk

The best time to walk is after eating a meal to help prevent blood glucose spikes from the carbs in your meal. So whether you like to walk in the morning or evening, timing those walks after meals can help with glucose levels.

The second best time is whenever you can fit it into your schedule. We understand people are busy so any time you can find for regular walking is important and should be done consistently.

While there’s no perfect time to walk, it’s important is just to start walking. Below we take a look at the benefits of morning walks and evening walks.

Benefits of a Morning Walk

early morning walk

Improve Brain Function

Taking morning walks could help improve brain function.

This study look at the mental effects of morning bouts of moderate exercise on older adults. Participants did 30 minutes of moderate walking in the morning and found improved working memory and brain function, especially if followed by intermittent breaks of light walking throughout the day.

Free Up the Rest of Day

If you’re an early riser, you can easily exercise in the morning and free up the rest of your day.

We know that people are busy and finding time to exercise often gets ignored. And something can easily come up and cause you to cancel your plans of exercising.

But taking a morning walk is one of the easiest ways to add in an exercise to your daily schedule. Then you can be done with your exercise before the day starts and don’t have to worry about the busyness of the day.

May Improve Sleep

Regular morning exercise could also help you get better sleep at night, based on this 2015 study conducted on the effects of morning and evening exercise on circadian rhythms.

The researchers found that morning exercise improved parasympathetic nerve activity, which helps the body relax and rest. On the other hand, the study found that high intensity evening exercise increased sympathetic nerve activity, which stimulates the “fight or flight” response.

If you want better sleep, the study suggests that morning walks is a better option than evening exercise.

Less Air Pollution

Another benefit of a morning walk is enjoying the fresh air before the “morning rush hour” traffic.

There’s usually less cars on the road in the early morning or just as the sun rises. This is a great time to take a walk because there’s less air pollution and traffic to deal with.

Benefits of a Late Afternoon or Evening Walk

walking in the evening

Minimize Blood Glucose Spikes

For people with type 2 diabetes, taking a walk after meals is an effective way to lower the chances of blood glucose spikes. And because dinner is usually the biggest meal for most people, walking after dinner is an easy way to control blood glucose levels.

A daily post dinner walk is easy to remember and is an easy way to minimizes blood glucose spikes.

More Effective at Lowering Glucose Levels

This study looked at the effects of morning and afternoon exercise on 24-hour blood glucose levels in men with Type 2 diabetes.

It found that afternoon high intensity interval training was more effective at improving blood glucose than when done in the morning.

Surprisingly, the study found that the morning training had a negative effect of increasing blood glucose (but noted more studies are needed see the prevalence of this adverse effect).

warmup stretch before walking

Walking FAQs

What’s the Best Warm Up Before Walking?

Warming up for three to five minutes helps increase blood flow to muscles and joints, which preps the body for physical activity. For light walking, a combination of stretching, lunges, or deep breathing should be adequate. For higher intensity walking, you can add jumping jacks, stationary jogging or deep squats to the same warm up for light walking.

How Many Miles Can You Walk in 30 Minutes?

This will vary from individuals and on your walking speed. But using the CDC’s Physical Activity Guidelines, the speed of a brisk walk is about 2.5 to 4 miles-per-hour. So 30 minutes to brisk walking will cover roughly 1.25 t0 2 miles.

Should I Walk if I Have Foot Pain?

If your doctor or care provider is OK with it, you can still walk if you have foot pain but start slow and light. Start with a short walk and slowly increase your speed or walking time. And for people with diabetes that have foot numbness caused by nerve damage, make sure you have proper shoes that aren’t too tight and create friction. You should look into shoe companies that are designed for diabetes such as FitVille shoes.

Summary

Walking has a lot of health benefits especially for people with type 2 diabetes. The best time for walking is after eating a meal, which helps lower the chances of blood glucose spikes.

But if you can’t walk after every meal, it’s important to find any time of your day when you can take walks regularly.

Morning walks are great because it can help “wake up” your brain and even help you get better sleep. Afternoon exercises have shown better at improving blood glucose levels than exercising in the morning based on studies. And walking in the evening can be timed after eating a big dinner to help minimize glucose spikes.

Overall, there are benefits in both walking in the morning or in the evening so choose a time that works best for you. The most important thing is to simply start walking and increase your goals over time so you can help control you diabetes.

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