Just 2 Minutes of Walking After a Meal Is Surprisingly Good for You

Conventional wisdom states that walking after eating helps to clear the mind and aid in digestion. Scientists have also discovered that going for a walk after a meal helps to clear your mind and aid in digestion. 15-minute walkAfter a meal, blood sugar levels can be reduced which can help prevent complications like Type 2 diabetes. These benefits can be activated by walking for as little as a few minutes, it turns out.

In a meta-analysisRecently published in the journal Sports Medicine researchers reviewed seven studies that evaluated the effects of sitting and standing on measures of cardiovascular health, including insulin levels, blood sugar, and blood pressure. Researchers found that light walking after meals, in increments of two to five minutes, had a significant effect on blood sugar levels.

“Each small thing you do will have benefits, even if it is a small step,” said Dr. Kershaw Patel, a preventive cardiologist at Houston Methodist Hospital who was not involved in the study.

In five of the five studies, none of the participants had Type 2 diabetes or prediabetes. The other two studies looked at people who had or did not have such illnesses. Participants were asked to stand or walk for between two and five minutes every 20-30 minutes during a full-day.

All seven studies demonstrated that light-intensity walking for a few minutes after eating was sufficient to significantly increase blood sugar levels. Participants noticed a gradual rise in blood sugar when they went for a short walk.

Diabetes sufferers need to avoid sharp fluctuations in blood sugar levels. It’s also thought that sharp spikes and crashes in blood sugar levels can contribute to developing Type 2 diabetes.

Although standing helped lower blood sugar levels, it was not as much as light walking. “Standing did have a small benefit,” Aidan Buffey, a graduate student at the University of Limerick in Ireland and an author of the paper, said. Compared to sitting or standing, “light-intensity walking was a superior intervention,” he said.

That’s because light walking requires more active engagement of muscles than standing and uses the fuel from food at a time when there is a lot of it circulating in the bloodstream. “Your muscles will soak up some of that excess glucose,” said Jessie Inchauspé, author of the book “Glucose Revolution: The Life-Changing Power of Balancing Your Blood Sugar.”

“You still had the same meal, but the impact on your body will be lessened,” she added.

While walking is good for your overall health, it is especially beneficial to take a short walk within 60-90 minutes after eating a meal to reduce blood sugar spikes. This is because that is when blood sugar levels tend peak.

Ms. Inchauspé also recommended getting up to do housework or finding other ways to move your body. This activity can also help people make dietary changes to improve their blood sugar levels.

“Moving even a little bit is worthwhile and can lead to measurable changes, as these studies showed, in your health markers,” Dr. Euan Ashley, a cardiologist at Stanford University who was not associated with the study, said.

Buffey, whose research is focused on workplace physical activity interventions, said that a two- to three-minute walk is more practical during the day. People “are not going to get up and run on a treadmill or run around the office,” he said, but they could get some coffee or even go for a stroll down the hallway.

He suggested that people working remotely take a short walk around the block after Zoom meetings or lunch. Mr. Buffey said that the more mini-walks are made part of the workday, the easier they will be to do. “If you are in a rigid environment, that’s when the difficulties may come.”

If you cannot take those few minutes to take a walk, Dr. Ashley said, “standing will get you some of the way there.”

Dr. Patel stated that the benefits of physical activity do not exist in isolation. “It’s a gradual effect of more activity, better health,” he said. “Each incremental step, each incremental stand or brisk walk appears to have a benefit.”

Rachel Fairbank, a freelance science writer, is based in Texas.

Source: NY Times

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