When it comes to weight loss, we all know the drill. Eat less sugar and carbs, and eat more fresh fruits and vegetables and lean protein. And exercise at least 30 minutes a day.
And, not surprisingly, the same advice applies to diabetes management. While the diet component can be difficult from a cravings or willpower standpoint, the exercise piece is simply not realistic for some people.
Whether it’s due to injury, diabetic complications such as neuropathy, illness, or being frail and/or bedridden, there are those people for whom exercise is a near impossibility.
Given this, researchers questioned if something as simple as static, assisted stretching could help lower blood glucose levels.
Give It a Stretch
Researchers enlisted 22 adults from Hawaii. Seven of the participants had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. The remaining 15 were at risk for the disease, meaning they had at least three of four risk factors:
- At least 45 years old
- Family history of type 2 diabetes
- BMI of 25 or greater
Participants were randomly divided into two groups. The first group had a 40-minute session of passive stretching, while the second group underwent 40 minutes of mock stretching. Both groups did two days of stretching with three days between the test days.
Those participants in the static, assisted stretching group underwent 10 stretches: four upper body and six lower body. Each stretch was done four times and held each time for 30 seconds. There was a 15-second break between sets and a 30-second break between each new type of stretch.
The same stretches were done in each group with one key difference. In the experimental group, the person performing the stretch pushed or pulled the specific area being stretched until the participant indicated they could feel the stretch. They then held the stretch at that tension for the 30 seconds. In the control group, the person performing the stretch put the participant into the correct stretching pose, but did not apply any tension to the muscle during the stretch.
On the testing days, prior to the test, participants came to the lab two hours after eating a meal. They immediately drank a 12-ounce can of fruit juice, and then 30 minutes later began their stretches.
Additionally, after drinking the juice but prior to beginning the stretches, researchers tested the participants’ blood glucose levels. The levels were tested again 20 minutes into the exercise and again at 40 minutes, when the exercises concluded.
At the conclusion of the study, researchers found that at both 20 minutes and 40 minutes, those in the experimental group enjoyed a significant decrease in blood glucose levels as compared to the control group.
In fact, after 20 minutes of stretching, the experimental group had a 28 mg/dL reduction in blood glucose levels from baseline. And at 40 minutes, they showed a 24 mg/dL reduction in blood glucose levels.
Researchers concluded, “This study shows that static stretching is an additional viable activity that can help regulate blood glucose acutely. Since it requires little effort by the individual, it appears to be an advantageous treatment for those with reduced physical capabilities.”
Stretch It Out
Now this is one great study! Whether you have physical limitations or motivational ones, this study is the answer to your prayers.
Take time to stretch first thing in the morning or last thing at night while in bed, in the evening when watching your favorite TV show, or right at the dinner table after a good meal.
Whenever you choose to do your stretches, remember to stretch to the point just before discomfort and hold for 30 seconds. Do each stretch four times. Then sit back and watch your blood sugar begin to drop!
 Nelson, AG, et al. Twenty minutes of passive stretching lowers glucose levels in an at-risk population: an experimental study. J Physiother. 2011;57(3):173-8.