Chances are, you've heard about the benefits of walking. It's low-impact, it's an exercise you can do through old age, it gets you outside and moving, it can pull you out of a funk. Did you know that walking after a meal is especially beneficial?
Research shows that walking after eating can help to reduce postprandial glucose, which refers to the rise in blood sugar you get right after you've eaten. This is especially important for people with metabolic issues like diabetes, pre-diabetes, or insulin resistance, as high blood sugar can lead to a whole range of complications.
Even if you don't have diabetes, keeping your blood sugar levels from spiking is a good idea to keep your body systems working properly, down to the cellular level.
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How does walking reduce postprandial glucose?
You might assume that the goal of your after-dinner walk is to burn the calories you just ate. This isn't a guilt-and-punishment mindset about calories. Instead, it's more about keeping your blood sugar stable.
When you have stable blood sugar, your body doesn't have to release as much insulin. Insulin is a hormone that helps your body use or store the sugar from the carbs you eat. But when insulin levels are too high, it can lead to weight gain, insulin resistance (which messes with your ability to turn the food you eat into energy), as well as the big one: inflammation.
Inflammation is linked to pretty much every chronic disease out there, so keeping your body's inflammatory response in check is a good idea across the board.
Should you walk after a meal even if you’ve worked out earlier that day?
The benefits of walking after a meal hold true even if you’ve worked out already in the same day. This study found that in people with type 2 diabetes, a walk after dinner was better for controlling the glycemic effect (rise in blood sugar) of dinner than a full-on pre-meal workout.
When you’re comparing an exercise session with a post-meal walk, the goals are very different. An exercise session is to benefit your muscle strength, cardiovascular strength, and overall fitness level. A walk after a meal is a more general well-being practice. There’s some overlap between the two, but there’s a lot of benefit to doing both and not a lot (if any) of drawbacks.
Other benefits of walking after a meal
Stable blood sugar isn't the only reason to take a spin around the block after meals. You may also experience things like:
- Better digestion
- Improved blood circulation
- Increased feelings of fullness and satiety
- Mood benefits from being outside
- Quality time with loved ones who come along (pups included!)
So, next time you sit down to a big meal, make sure to get up and go for a walk afterwards. Your body will thank you!