For good health, keep moving

Could a few small steps after lunch lead to giant leaps for our health? New research confirms the benefits of moderate exercise, according to a leap-day post in the Well blog at The New York Times. It doesn’t take a leap of faith to see that as further proof that our horses need to keep moving as well.

To study sugar spikes after a meal in active and sedentary people, researchers chose to ask active volunteers to move less, since asking sedentary people to move more may be impractical, as reported in the New York Times,

People who are inactive may also be obese, eat poorly or face other lifestyle or metabolic issues that make it impossible to tease out the specific role that inactivity, on its own, plays in ill health.

The University of Missouri researchers monitored food choices and blood glucose levels of volunteers whose normal routine included walking 13,000 steps daily. Their blood sugar levels did not spike after meals. When the volunteers cut back on exercise, they averaged 4,300 steps for three days and, writes the NYTimes:

They became, essentially, typical American adults.

Their blood sugar spiked after meals, with peaks increasing during the three days of monitoring. It’s interesting that the spikes occurred immediately. Other possible factors affecting the glucose spikes are not discussed here and clever as it may be, only twelve volunteers participated in this study.

I’d like to know how the same volunteers would react if they reduced portion size and calories, sugar and fat when reducing exercise.

Recovery apparently happens quickly once exercise resumes; but if inactivity becomes the new routine, the glucose spikes after meals may lead to insulin-related and other chronic conditions.

Five miles for humans, 20 miles for horses?
“Exercise guidelines from the American Heart Association and other groups recommend that, for health purposes, people accumulate 10,000 steps or more a day, the equivalent of about five miles of walking. Few people do, however. Repeated studies of American adults have shown that a majority take fewer than 5,000 steps per day,” says the NYTimes.
Do you walk 5 miles a day? And how many miles do your horses wander? I don’t walk that much lately, even with all the farm chores. My horses used to be out on acreage all the time, but they’re in corrals now, their activity level a far cry from the 20 miles a day mustangs might walk.

Our horses are supposed to walk and eat through the day, not be living in stalls and hit with a couple high-cal meals. Many horse owners introduced slow feeders and grass hay. But I still see new facilities designed for horse confinement for a large part of the day, continuous access to pasture and herd denied.

Why It’s So Important to Keep Moving, by Gretchen Reynolds, Feb. 29, 2012

Lowering physical activity impairs glycemic control in healthy volunteers.
Mikus CR, Oberlin DJ, Libla JL, Taylor AM, Booth FW, Thyfault JP.
Department of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO 65201, USA.
Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2012 Feb;44(2):225-31.
Abstract excerpts:
Postprandial glucose (PPG) is an independent predictor of cardiovascular events and death, regardless of diabetes status. Whereas changes in physical activity produce changes in insulin sensitivity, it is not clear whether changes in daily physical activity directly affect PPG in healthy free-living persons.
Thus, despite evidence of compensatory increases in plasma insulin during an OGTT [oral glucose tolerance tests], ΔPPG assessed by continuous glucose monitoring systems increased markedly during 3 d of reduced physical activity in otherwise healthy free-living individuals. These data indicate that daily physical activity is an important mediator of glycemic control, even among healthy individuals, and reinforce the utility of physical activity in preventing pathologies associated with elevated PPG.


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