Walking two minutes after meals lowers blood sugar levels

Walking two minutes after meals lowers blood sugar levels

Conventional wisdom says that walking after a meal helps clear your mind and facilitate digestion. Scientists have found that walking for 15 minutes after eating can lower blood sugar levels, which may help avoid complications such as type 2 diabetes. But as it turns out, just a few minutes of walking can activate these benefits, too.

In a meta-analysis recently published in Sports Medicine, researchers analyzed the results of seven studies that compared the effects of sitting versus standing or walking on measures of heart health, including insulin and blood sugar levels.

They found that a brisk walk after a meal, in increments of just 2 to 5 minutes, had a significant effect on modulating blood sugar levels.

“Every little thing you do will have benefits, even if it’s a small step,” said Kershaw Patel, a preventive cardiologist at Houston Methodist Hospital who was not involved in the study.

In five of the studies evaluated in the article, none of the participants had prediabetes or type 2 diabetes. The remaining two studies looked at people with or without these conditions. The researchers asked participants to stand or walk for 2 to 5 minutes every 20 to 30 minutes over the course of an entire day.

All seven studies showed that just a few minutes of light walking after a meal was enough to significantly improve blood sugar levels compared to sitting at a table or couch, for example. When the participants took a short walk, their blood sugar levels gradually rose and fell.

For people with diabetes, avoiding sharp fluctuations in blood sugar levels is a critical component of disease management. It is also believed that sudden rise and fall in blood sugar levels can contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes.

Standing also helped lower blood sugar levels, but not as much as brisk walking. “Standing had a small benefit,” said Aidan Bovey, a graduate student at the University of Limerick in Ireland and author of the research. Compared with sitting or standing, he said, “walking with light force was a better intervention.”

That’s because light walking requires more active muscle engagement than standing, and it takes up food fuel at a time when a lot of it is circulating in the bloodstream.

Your muscles will absorb some of that extra glucose,” said Jesse Inchosby, author of The Glucose Revolution: Balance Your Blood Sugar Levels and Change Your Life.

“I ate the same meal, but the effect on your body would be less,” she added.

Walking should be 60 to 90 minutes after a meal

While a brisk walk at any time is good for your health, a short walk within 60 to 90 minutes after a meal can be especially helpful in reducing hyperglycemia, as this occurs when blood sugar levels tend to peak.

Inchauspé also recommended getting up to do chores or finding other ways to move the body. This little bit of activity will also promote dietary changes people make to help control blood sugar levels.

“Moving is worthwhile and can lead to measurable changes, as these studies have shown, in indicators of your health,” said Ewan Ashley, a cardiologist at Stanford University, who was not involved in the study.

Miniwalks are more practical during the workday

Buffy, whose research focuses on physical activity interventions in the workplace, notes that a small walk of 2 to 3 minutes is practical during the workday. He said people “won’t get up and run on the treadmill or around the office,” but they could have coffee or even walk down the hall.

For people who work from home, suggest walking a short walk around the building between Zoom meetings or after lunch. Buffy said that the more we normalize mini-walking during the workday, the more viable it is. “If you are in a rigid environment, difficulties may arise here.”

“If you can’t take those few minutes walking, standing up will help you get there,” Ashley said.

The benefits of physical activity aren’t all or nothing, Patel said, but they are on a continuum. “It’s a gradual effect of more activity and better health,” he said. “Every extra step, every extra lift or brisk walk seems to count.”

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