Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.
January 10, 2022
2 min read

Stair walking for 10 minutes may lower glucose and insulin, improve insulin sensitivity

Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.
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Moderate-intensity stair walking for as little as 3 minutes can lower glucose and insulin concentrations, and 10 minutes of stair walking can improve insulin sensitivity, according to study findings.

Short duration, moderate-intensity stair stepping causes a decrease in peak postprandial glucose and insulin levels with as little as 3 minutes, but longer — 10 minutes — stepping was necessary to also increase in insulin sensitivity after a standard glucose challenge,” Jeff Moore, MS, professor at San Diego State University School of Exercise and Nutritional Science and a PhD student at the Lundquist Institute for Biomedical Innovation at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, and colleagues wrote in a study published in Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases. “This intervention had no effect on antioxidant capacity.”

Man exercising
Source: Adobe Stock

Researchers recruited 30 healthy adults (60% men; mean age, 26.2 years) from October 2016 to August 2017 to participate in a crossover trial at an exercise physiology laboratory at San Diego State University. Peak aerobic capacity was determined at the first visit, and a baseline resting oral glucose tolerance test was conducted at the second visit. The next three visits included an OGTT combined with 1, 3 or 10 minutes of self-selected intensity stair climbing and descending. Participants self-selected a stepping pace between 90 and 110 steps per minute. A 75 g dextrose solution was consumed at the start of the visit. The stair climbing started at 18 minutes for the 10-minute climb, 25 minutes for the 3-minute climb and 27 minutes for the 1-minute climb to allow blood collection 30 minutes after the dextrose solution was consumed. Glucose, insulin antioxidant capacity and lactate during each of the three climbing interventions were compared with baseline values.

In post hoc testing, peak glucose was lower after 10 minutes of climbing (delta = –22.69; 95% CI, – 34.66 to –10.72; P < .002) and 3 minutes of climbing (delta = –15.37; 95% CI, – 25.05 to –5.69; P < .004) compared with baseline, but no change was observed with the 1-minute climbing intervention. Insulin levels also decreased during 10 minutes of climbing (delta = –6.11; 95% CI, – 8.86 to –3.36; P < .001) and 3 minutes of climbing (delta = –2.59; 95% CI, – 4.54 to –0.63; P < .012) compared with baseline, but there was no difference with 1 minute of climbing.

The 10-minute climbing intervention was associated with an increase in insulin sensitivity (delta = 1.81; 95% CI, 0.03-3.58; P < .048). No changes in insulin sensitivity were observed with 3 minutes of climbing or 1 minute of climbing. None of the three climbing exercises was associated with changes in antioxidant capacity or lactate.

The researchers noted there were several limitations to the study, including a lack of timepoints, the use of dextrose rather than a mixed meal, and the study population consisting of only healthy younger adults.

“Future studies should investigate populations who have impaired glucose tolerance, insulin resistance, or overt diabetes who would be expected to see a greater benefit,” the researchers wrote.