While after-meal walks have generally been internalized by humans as a digestive aid, scientists have now found that a short walk after a meal can lower blood sugar levels, which may help prevent complications such as type 2 diabetes. They even recommended that walking within 60 to 90 minutes of eating produces the best results.
While light walking is good for your health at any time, a short walk within 60 to 90 minutes of eating a meal can be especially helpful in minimizing blood sugar spikes, as blood sugar tends to spike. According to The New York Timesresearchers from a study published in the journal Sports Medicine, looked at the results of seven studies comparing the effects of sitting versus standing or walking on measures of heart health, including insulin and blood sugar levels. They found that walking lightly after a meal, in increments of just two to five minutes, “had a significant impact on moderating blood sugar.”
This research would be especially beneficial for Indians, believes Anoop Misra, President, Fortis-C-DOC Center of Excellence for Diabetes, Metabolic Diseases and Endocrinology. “In the Indian context and given our meal patterns, post-meal sugars are often high and difficult to control. However, caution should be exercised when advising a post-meal walk to people with heart disease, as such exercise can divert blood away from the heart.”
This study confirms the findings of two previous studies. A 2016 study of people with type 2 diabetes found that walking for 10 minutes after each meal lowered blood sugar levels more than walking for half an hour at other times of the day. Before that, a 2011 study published in the International Journal of General Medicine found that walking right after a meal was more effective for weight loss than waiting an hour after eating before going for a walk.
“In five of the studies the article reviewed, none of the participants had pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes. The remaining two studies looked at people with and without such diseases. The participants were asked to stand or walk for two to five minutes, every 20 to 30 minutes, for an entire day. All seven studies showed that just a few minutes of light-intensity walking after a meal was enough to significantly improve blood sugar levels compared to, say, sitting at a desk or plopping down on the couch. When participants took a short walk, their blood sugar rose and fell more gradually. For people with diabetes, avoiding sharp swings in blood sugar is a critical part of managing their disease. It is also thought that sharp spikes and crashes in blood sugar may contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes,” the report said.
The report also recommended getting up to do housework or find other ways to move your body. This short amount of activity will also amplify other dietary changes that allow people to control their blood sugar levels. And for those who spend long hours at work, the report found that a two- to three-minute mini-walk is more practical than the rigor of treadmill running.