What do you do after a meal? Do you stretch out on the couch, sit in your favorite reading chair, or climb into bed? Your post-meal activities can have a huge effect on your health. For example, did you know that walking after eating can offer all sorts of health benefits? Not just better digestion, but weight loss and reduced glycemic load! If you’re wondering why to walk after you eat, here’s what you need to know:
Walking Lowers Blood Sugar
One professor of science at George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health found that even just a few minutes of a walk after you eat can help to control your post-prandial blood sugar levels. Older adults at risk for diabetes were set to walk for just 15 minutes after their meals. The post-exercise blood tests found that the blood sugar spikes were much smaller even after heavier food intake. Compared to a 45-minute walk in the morning or during the afternoon, that post-meal walk had a far more noticeable effect on their blood sugar levels.
Why a Post-Dinner Walk?
When you eat a big meal later in the afternoon or evening, you’ll find that your body is less effective at responding to the food. Your body produces less insulin and more slowly in the evenings, so it takes longer to control high blood sugar levels after a big meal, especially one heavy in carbs. Given that so many Americans have big dinners, this can be a real problem. Slow insulin production can lead to blood sugar spikes, which in turn can cause obesity, chronic high blood pressure, and even diabetes. But walking helps to counteract that problem. Simply put, walking helps to turn that meal into energy.
Glucose is Your Primary Fuel
When you exercise, your body burns through the glucose it has stored in your liver and bloodstream. You can store between 390 and 490 calories’ worth of glucose at any one time, and the rest is translated into fat. But if you’ve already eaten a meal earlier and haven’t burned the energy, that means your glucose storage is full. When you eat another big meal at dinner, there’s nowhere for the energy to be utilized, so it goes straight to fat storage. Walking, however, burns through the glucose you have stored, freeing up “storage space” for the calories you’ve just eaten.
How Long to Walk
If you’re trying to reduce the load your meal places on your body, you’ll find that just a few minutes of walking is enough. One researcher found that just 10 minutes of walking provided noticeable improvement in post-prandial blood sugar levels. You can go around the block a couple of times and see far better blood sugar levels after your meals. Or, you can lengthen that post-dinner stroll to a full-on walk, and walk for 30 to 60 minutes. This isn’t recommended after a very heavy meal, but it can help to encourage digestion and better glucose control after a moderately sized meal. Factor a post-dinner walk into your evening and you’ll do your body a lot of favors!
Change Your Eating Schedule
As most experts will tell you, your biggest meal should be directly after your intense workout. For most people, that typically means first thing in the morning or following your 6 PM workout (after clocking out of work). However, it’s important to note that late-night meals are more likely to cause fat storage than early morning ones. If you can shift your eating schedule so you’re consuming your biggest meals first thing in the morning and keep your evening meals smaller, you’ll notice visible changes in your weight!