15 Sep Walking After Meals, Part One: The Benefits
The positive effects of exercise on health have been proven time and time again.
So what are the specific health effects of walking after eating? When is the right time to go for a post-meal stroll? And for how long?
In Part One of our miniseries about Walking After Eating, we’ll explore the data-proven benefits of the practice. In Part Two, we’ll take a glimpse at the downsides. But for now: let’s get some good news!
The Potential benefits of walking after eating
Exercise is associated with many positive health benefits. This includes walking after eating, which has some unique benefits of its own.
1 May improve digestion
A major potential benefit associated with walking after eating is improved digestion. Body movement can aid your digestion by promoting stimulation of the stomach and intestines, causing food to move through more rapidly.
In addition, low to moderate physical activity after eating may have a protective effect on the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.
2 May help manage blood sugar levels
Another notable benefit of walking after eating is improved blood sugar management. This is particularly important for people with type 1 and 2 diabetes — conditions that impair blood sugar processing — because exercising after eating may prevent excessive spikes in blood sugar, thus reducing the amount of insulin or oral medications required.
A 2016 study in people with type 2 diabetes 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.
While post-meal exercise is particularly impactful for those with diabetes, others can benefit from its blood-sugar-lowering effects as well.
3 May reduce heart disease risk
For decades, physical activity has been linked to heart health. More specifically, regular exercise may lower your blood pressure and LDL (bad) cholesterol, while also reducing your risk of a stroke or heart attack.
One study suggests that several small bouts of exercise throughout the day may be superior to one continuous bout of exercise for lowering blood triglycerides, a risk factor for heart disease. You can mimic this pattern by taking 5- to 10-minute walks following your main meals throughout the day.
Protip: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) recommends 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise at least 5 days per week, and by completing three 10-minute walks per day following meals, you can easily meet this guideline.
4 May promote weight loss
It’s well known that exercise plays a major role in weight loss in combination with a proper diet. To promote weight loss, you must be in a calorie deficit, meaning that you burn more calories than you take in.
Walking after meals could bring you closer to reaching a calorie deficit that — if consistently maintained — can aid in weight loss.
5 May help regulate blood pressure
Walking after meals may also help regulate blood pressure to a certain extent.
What’s more, several 10-minute walks throughout the day appear to be more beneficial for lowering blood pressure than one continuous session.
Another study in sedentary individuals found that starting a walking program can reduce systolic blood pressure by as much as 13%, or about 21 points.
Based on current data, participating in walks after meals might have a potent blood-pressure-lowering effect.
The benefits of walking after meals are plentiful and include improved digestion, heart health, blood sugar management, weight loss, and regulated blood pressure.
Next week, we’ll take a look at the potential downsides. Stay tuned!