Walking after meals lowers blood sugar, study says

While post-meal walks have generally been internalized by people as an aid to digestion, scientists have now found that taking a short walk after any meal can lower blood sugar levels, which can help prevent complications like type 2 diabetes. They even recommended that walking within 60 to 90 minutes of eating offers the best results.

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 minimizing spikes in blood sugar, as this is when blood sugar levels in the blood tend to peak. According to The New York Timesresearchers of a study published in the journal Sports medicine, looked at the results of seven studies that compared the effects of sitting versus standing or walking on measures of heart health, including blood sugar and insulin levels. They found that brisk walking after a meal, in increments of as little as two to five minutes, “had a significant impact on moderating blood sugar levels.”

This research would be especially beneficial to Indians, says Anoop Misra, president of the Fortis-C-DOC Center of Excellence for Diabetes, Metabolic Diseases, and Endocrinology. “In the Indian context and given our eating patterns, post-meal sugars are often high and difficult to control. However, care should be taken when recommending walking after meals to people with heart disease, as such exercise can divert blood away from the heart.”

This study reinforces the findings of two previous studies. A 2016 study of type 2 diabetes sufferers found that walking for 10 minutes after each meal helped lower 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 walking.

“In five of the studies that the article evaluated, none of the participants had prediabetes or type 2 diabetes. The remaining two studies looked at people with and without these diseases. Participants were asked to stand or walk for two to five minutes, every 20 to 30 minutes over the course of a full day. All seven studies showed that just a few minutes of brisk walking after a meal was enough to significantly improve blood sugar levels compared to, say, sitting at a desk or lying on the couch. When the participants took a short walk, their blood sugar levels rose and fell more gradually. For people with diabetes, avoiding wild fluctuations in blood sugar levels is a critical component of managing their disease. Sudden spikes and drops in blood sugar levels are also thought to contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes,” the report says.

The report also recommended getting up to do housework or find other ways to move your body. This small amount of activity will also improve other dietary changes people may be making to help control their blood sugar levels. And for those who spend long hours in the workplace, the report found that a two- to three-minute mini-walk is more practical than the rigors of running on a treadmill.

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