by Matt Weik, BS, CSCS, CPT, CSN
Do you have two minutes to dedicate to a walk each day? Research is giving you the thumbs up to take a short walk after meals to gain health benefits. That’s not so hard to fit into your schedule, right? Here’s what you need to know.
According to some conventional wisdom, a 2-minute walk after meals can help digestion and may clear the mind. Scientists have also found that going for a 15-minute walk after meals can reduce your blood sugar levels, which can help prevent and minimize other complications such as Type 2 diabetes. But, as it has been found, even just a few minutes of walking can deliver the same benefits.
As per a meta-analysis that was published in the journal Sports Medicine, scientists looked at the results of seven studies that compared the effects of sitting versus standing or walking on measures of heart health, which include blood sugar levels and insulin.
Potential Benefits of Walking After Meals
Taking a walk after meals is a great way to burn calories and gets the blood flowing. It can also be a good way to clear your head after a meal if you’re someone who finds yourself thinking about work or other distractions while eating.
Walking is a gentle form of exercise that you can do almost anywhere — at home, in your neighborhood, or at the gym.
Here are some health benefits of taking a short walk after meals:
1. Reduces blood sugar levels
Walking after meals can help regulate blood sugar levels by releasing insulin into your bloodstream, which helps bring glucose into cells for energy production. Insulin is a hormone that is released by the pancreas in response to an increase in blood glucose levels after eating.
The more insulin released, the more glucose is taken up by cells and stored as glycogen for later use as energy. If too much glucose is in the bloodstream or insufficient insulin is released, it can cause high blood sugar levels known as hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).
In a study in 2016, researchers found that light walking for 10 minutes after each meal was superior to walking for 30 minutes at any one time for blood sugar management.
2. It promotes digestion
Going for a walk after meals can help stimulate digestion and encourages your body to absorb nutrients from food more efficiently. It also prevents bloating and gas, two common digestive issues that can be caused by overeating or eating too quickly. Moving your body can help digestion by stimulating the stomach and intestines, moving food through your digestive tract more rapidly.
Also, low to medium levels of physical activity after eating food may have a protective effect on your gastrointestinal (GI) tract.
3. Supports mental health
By going for a walk after meals, you can effectively boost endorphins, which are hormones that relieve pain and promote feelings of happiness. Endorphins are released when we do anything that makes us happy — from listening to music to eating chocolate.
Walking after meals can give you more energy and help you feel less stressed during the day.
4. May help regulate blood pressure
We are aware that exercise can help regulate blood pressure, but what you may not be aware of is that timing brief walks throughout the day may be just what you need to benefit your health. Taking short walks or even taking a walk after meals could offer even more results for hypertension than an hour of exercise.
According to a study, the total effects of 10-minute bouts of physical activity significantly brought down diastolic blood pressure in those with pre-hypertension.
Mealtimes can be a convenient trigger for working in these shorter bouts of light physical activity.
5. May reduce heart disease risk
For years, physical activity has been linked to heart health.
To be more specific, regular exercise can reduce blood pressure and LDL (bad) cholesterol while also lowering your risk of a heart attack or stroke.
One study says that several small bouts of exercise throughout the day can be superior to one continuous bout of exercise when it comes to lowering blood triglycerides, which is a risk factor for heart disease. You can do this by taking a 2-10 minute walk after meals throughout the day.
6. A walk after meals is a great way to burn calories
Getting outside for a walk after meals is a great way to burn calories because it helps reduce blood sugar levels, which can lead to weight gain and all kinds of health problems, including diabetes. If you’re looking for an easy way to burn calories and feel better about your health, going for a walk after meals should definitely be on your radar.
Walking after meals could help you reach a calorie deficit, which can lead to weight loss.
7. Improves quality of sleep
Walking after dinner can help you improve the quality of your sleep. When we get up after a good night’s sleep, it increases our energy levels and makes us feel more productive throughout the day. It also helps us avoid chronic diseases such as obesity and diabetes because they are caused due to lack of physical activity in our daily routine.
If you want to get a better night’s rest, consider taking a walk after meals and getting in a little more exercise throughout the day.