You may have heard that taking a walk after a meal makes you feel better. A 10-minute “post-meal walk,” or walk after a meal, is thought to aid digestion and keep your stomach from feeling overly full. However, a recent study suggests that walking after meals (for example, two to five minutes) may help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease (walking after meals is beneficial).
According to a study published in the Journal of Sports Medicine, walking short distances reduces blood sugar and insulin levels. (Glucose levels rise after meals. Insulin, which is produced to control blood sugar, can lead to diabetes and heart disease.)
In fact, the findings are based on pooled results from seven studies showing how sitting, standing and walking affect heart health. (Researchers estimated heart health based on insulin and blood sugar levels.) In five of the seven studies, no participants had prediabetes or type 2 diabetes at the start of the study. In the remaining two studies, participants included people with and without diabetes. In all seven studies, participants were asked to stand or walk for 2 to 5 minutes every 20 to 30 minutes throughout the day.
Results from all seven studies determined that standing was better than sitting after a meal, and it was even better to walk for a while after a meal. In fact, walking a short distance is enough to significantly improve blood sugar levels. The participants who stood for a short period of time after a meal had improved blood sugar levels. And those who walked longer after meals had lower blood sugar and insulin levels.
A walk is most beneficial after one to one and a half hours.
While walking is good for the body, the study authors concluded that taking “small walks” 60 to 90 minutes after a meal works best.
Lead study author Aidan Buffett is a PhD student in Physical Education and Exercise Science at the University of Limerick, focusing on physical activity in the work environment. In a recent New York Times article, he noted that people “don’t get up and run on the treadmill or run around the office, he’s referring to taking a walk among your day’s errands.” To do that, grab a cup of coffee at the office or take a walk around the block between Zoom calls.
If you can’t walk, then at least try to get up and walk after lunch. Even doing simple household chores will activate your muscles and help counteract the effects of a sedentary lifestyle.