The answer is yes. New research suggests that a light, 2-minute walk after eating can help lower blood sugar and reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
What does the research show?
- As little as 2-5 minutes of light-intensity slow walking was enough to cause a significant drop in blood sugar levels.
- Walking after eating was associated with a more gradual rise and fall in blood sugar levels compared to sitting or standing.
- This improvement in blood sugar levels was seen in people with and without diabetes or prediabetes.
- The improvement in blood sugar was evident across the weight spectrum. In fact, people with obesity even had significant reduction in blood sugar from standing compared to sitting.
- Walking for a longer period (more than 2-5 minutes) after a meal can provide additional benefits.
- The best time to walk is within 60-90 minutes after eating. This is the time window during which the blood sugar level typically peak.
How does the science of this work?
Glucose is the sugar that is produced and used by the body. It is an important fuel for muscles and other tissues. Under normal circumstances, the levels of glucose in the blood are tightly regulated by the metabolic processes of the body. Diabetes happens when these metabolic processes go wrong for various reasons.
Glucose is released into the blood after meals and normally results in a small spike in blood sugar levels within 1-2 hours after that meal. While small spikes in blood sugar after a meal are not abnormal, large spikes and longer elevations of blood sugar are not healthy.
When muscles are engaged and used for walking, two things happen. First, blood flow to those muscles increases, then those muscles will use glucose to power the activity of walking. This results in the muscles essentially soaking up the excess glucose in the blood.
Are there other benefits to walking after eating?
There are many know benefits of walking after meals, including:
- The release of serotonin, and other beneficial hormones. These hormones have many positive effects on the body, including improving sleep, increasing memory function, regulating your appetite, and boosting a positive mindset.
- Improved blood pressure
- Gut regulation
- Improved circulation to the extremities.
- Lower levels of stress hormones, which reduce inflammation in the body
- Increased fat metabolism.
How do you get started?
First, you should check with your doctor to be sure you are healthy enough to start an exercise routine. Know your physical limitations and how far and how often you can walk without injury.
Start by walking a short amount (as little as 30 seconds) after each meal. Gradually increase your distance/time as you tolerate it. If you can get up to 10-15 minutes after each meal, that would be great.
Walking with a family member or friend can help to make it more enjoyable.
Consider listening to music or an audio book while walking.
You could also walk on a treadmill, or maybe around the living room, while watching TV.
If you are not able to walk comfortably, try some arm exercises, maybe while standing if you can.
This study shows that small changes can make a big impact on your health.
If you have any questions about exercise and how it helps diabetes, please log into your account and send us your question. We are here to help.
Dr. Anita Bennett MD – Health Tip Content Editor