Sometimes after meals, all we want to do is lay down and digest our food. But being sedentary is not necessarily the best way to assist the digestive process, nor does it help blood sugar regulation. Walking after meals, on the other hand, has significant health benefits.
Nothing too extreme, of course. You don’t have to lace up your sneakers while still chewing – researchers say the best time to walk after a meal is within an hour to an hour and a half after the meal (the same time when blood sugar tends to spike).
According to a new meta-analysis of seven studies from Ireland, even a light walk as short as two minutes after meals can lower blood sugar, reducing type 2 diabetes risk.
For the participants in the study who were obese, the study showed “significant results” in reducing their blood sugar, just from standing after eating when compared to sitting. However, it’s worth noting, only blood sugar was examined for this study, not blood pressure or insulin levels.
Dr. Haley Perlus, fitness expert and athlete, explains why walking and standing are good for glucose metabolism, particularly for people with diabetes. “Glucose is released into the bloodstream after meals, resulting in a small spike in blood sugar levels. While small sugar spikes are not abnormal, maintaining sugar levels is quintessential in managing diabetes… With the active engagement of muscles in walking, your muscles will soak up the excess glucose found in the bloodstream.”
Another byproduct of walking is the release of serotonin, which helps improve sleep, appetite, and memory. “Even light activity that breaks up sedentary periods has significant health benefits that can be felt and measured often within the first 24 to 58 hours of participation.” Indeed, walking after meals improves many aspects of health, including (but not limited to) gut regulation, circulation, lymphatic flow, hormone balance, mood, better fat metabolism, and reduced inflammation.
If walking is not a preferred activity, experts encourage any type of standing movement, even if it involves multitasking, such as pacing while on the phone, using a standing desk while working or even dancing or stretching.
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