Your general health and well-being improve when you exercise. Also, growing evidence indicates that walking after meals is particularly good for your metabolic health, mainly if your post-meal stroll occurs during a particular “sweet spot” window.
How efficiently your body produces and utilises energy at the cellular level is called metabolic wellness. Among many other advantages, those with a healthy metabolism often feel more energised, have improved memory function, and are better able to burn fat and maintain a healthy weight.
Your body’s capacity to effectively digest glucose, the sugar in your blood derived from the meals you eat, is a vital sign of your metabolic health. For example, your blood sugar levels rise when you eat carbohydrate-rich foods. Sometimes eating the right foods, but several hours of sitting post meals can put your glucose levels off the mark.
Talking to the HealthifyMe team, the nutritionists suggest taking a 10-minute break after a meal and not rushing to work. After this 10 minutes, between half an hour to three hours of a meal, taking a walk outside or inside the room can largely improve your metabolic health. The levels improve drastically and are visible if you track your glucose levels through a CGM device, like HealthifyPRO 2.0 BIOS.
Exercise can assist in maintaining a constant blood sugar level since muscles can absorb glucose from the bloodstream as energy. Eating whole foods low in refined carbohydrates and sugar can also help.
According to recent studies, taking a short walk after eating can considerably reduce overall hormone insulin levels, which allows our cells to absorb glucose but can be harmful if our systems create too much of it. For long-term metabolic health, that is advantageous.
Exercise and Glucose – The Relationship
It is a fact that your muscles are the workhorses for digesting glucose. However, scientists are still investigating all the variables that control the transfer of glucose from the bloodstream to muscle cells.
Compared to when your body is inactive, exercise can increase glucose uptake by as much as 50 times. Your body uses more glucose while you workout for three main reasons:
- At the tissue level, muscle contraction speeds up breathing and the heartbeat, which increases the amount of blood going to the working muscles.
- Your muscles can absorb more glucose through their muscular membranes when they contract or shorten.
- Exercise alters the behaviour of enzymes involved in glucose metabolism at the molecular level. Adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase (AMPK), a stimulator for glucose absorption, is first triggered by the body’s movement. TCB1D1, a protein that promotes the transfer of glucose transporter type 4 (GLUT4), which hooks into cell membranes and permits glucose to enter the cell, is deactivated by an increase in AMPK activity.
While you exercise, your heart pumps more blood-containing glucose to your muscles, and your muscle membranes become more effective at absorbing glucose.
In addition, changes in chemical enzymes support glucose transport even more. As a result, our blood glucose levels fall due to these mechanisms working together to provide our muscles with the glucose they require to fuel a workout.
Additionally, exercise enables muscle tissue to absorb glucose without needing insulin, whereas your body typically has to release insulin to get glucose into cells. Since we want to keep insulin levels as controlled as possible, reducing insulin secretion in response to glucose increases after meals is desirable. Insulin resistance can develop due to persistently high insulin levels (hyperinsulinemia).
The Best Time to Walk After a Meal
The quick response is: Depends. The research indicates that healthy individuals can benefit from a post-meal walk up to 6 hours after eating. However, specific individuals may need to exercise sooner.
A study found that a single session of at least 30 minutes of continuous cardiac exercise within 6 hours of eating reduced glucose and insulin levels in the six hours following a meal (the postprandial phase) compared to being at rest in a 2021 analysis of 51 studies published in Sports Medicine.
The study’s exciting aspect is that it only looked at individuals without a recognised metabolic condition when examining the glucose and insulin responses.
The mechanisms mentioned above of glucose uptake are what make workout time important. When you eat, glucose travels from your gut into your bloodstream, increasing your blood sugar level.
However, when you start exercising, that glucose is swiftly absorbed by muscle tissue, lowering your blood sugar levels. Therefore, your body’s glycemic balance is influenced by how quickly glucose from meals enters your bloodstream and how quickly you burn it off during exercise.
The HealthifyMe Note
Moving right away after eating is the winner: Blood glucose levels decline by walking and bodyweight exercises. Something as little as standing up immediately after eating provided a small effect. Activity before, after, or two hours after consumption did not affect participants’ glucose exposure or variability.
The Significance of Intensity and Duration of Post-meal Walks
The best way to control blood sugar levels after eating seems to be low- to moderate-intensity exercises, like brisk strolling. It is partially because walking relies on aerobic metabolism, which uses glucose and fatty acids and protein from the body.
As a result, when you walk after eating, you moderately burn down glucose to prevent a rise without triggering the synthesis of more glucose.
On the other hand, high-intensity exercise relies on anaerobic metabolism, which uses glucose as its sole fuel source. Because there is a shortage of glucose in the muscles, intense exercise activates hormones that tell the liver to create more glucose to satiate the growing need for energy. As a result, it causes blood glucose levels to rise.
Two studies from the 2016 study synthesis examining the relationship between exercise intensity and glucose surges provide examples of this phenomenon. One included activity 45 minutes after eating, the other an hour later.
In both investigations, participants’ glucose levels increased 20 minutes into the hour-long workout when they exerted themselves to a level that exceeded 71% of their VO2 max (an effort level classified as high-intensity). On the other hand, participants’ glucose levels did not increase when they maintained their intensity at 50% of their VO2 max (a more moderate effort). (It’s unclear how much of that increase is influenced by the meal consumed. Another study discovered that fasting high-intensity exercise had virtually no effect on blood glucose levels.)
The authors of the study evaluation concluded that beginning an activity like a brisk walk within 30 minutes of a meal and continuing for up to an hour is the optimal post-meal exercise intensity and duration to maintain blood glucose levels in balance.
It is in line with the conclusions of a review of the literature on the effects of a single session of steady-state cardio lasting at least 30 minutes, published in Sports Medicine in 2021.
Manage the Intensity
There are many health advantages to taking a short stroll after eating. High-intensity exercise is not always a wise choice, though.
The digestive process starts in the mouth as soon as someone starts eating and might last for hours. Therefore, an exercise that is hard and demanding can cause digestive problems.
Additionally, it could result in stomach discomfort. Instead, people should strive to walk at a low to moderate intensity. They should try to raise their heart rate without exerting themselves to exhaustion.
If one has never walked after eating, one should start with a leisurely stroll. Then, as you get used to this physical activity, you might be able to increase the speed and intensity progressively.
The Ideal Length
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises people to engage in 30 minutes of physical activity five days a week. If someone finds it difficult to do so, they can divide the distance into shorter walks. Then, they can gradually extend the length as they get more at ease and fitness.
Shorter walks could also be easier to fit into someone’s schedule. People should select a walking distance that is both practical and comfortable.
Benefits of Post-Meal Walks
Reduces Bloating and Gas
In those with irritable bowel syndrome, moderate daily activity reduces symptoms, including gas and boating, according to a 2020 study (IBS). According to the research, people who raise their daily step count from 4,000 to 9,500 can reduce their symptoms by 50%.
According to research, physical activity stimulates the digestive system. It facilitates food transit. Since it bypasses some of the accumulated gas through your digestive system, walking helps to alleviate bloating which decreases with less gas.
It is a fantastic bloat buster and helps to strengthen the abdominal muscles, which are advantageous. Also, walking after a large meal can help move food through the stomach more rapidly. So instead of staying in bed and relaxing after a heavy meal that made you feel stuffed and bloated, get up and go for a stroll.
Regulates Blood Sugar Levels
Blood glucose levels rise after eating, especially if it’s a carbohydrate-rich meal. In normal cases, a brief increase in blood sugar is followed by insulin release that controls and reduces it.
A spike in blood sugar following the consumption of carbohydrates is typical in those without diabetes. It is because as the digestive system breaks down carbohydrates, it converts to sugar. After that, the sugar gets into the blood. Sugar provides the body’s cells with vital energy, especially the brain.
Based on a 2018 study, the timing of walking influences postprandial blood glucose or blood sugar levels after a meal. According to the research, a short post-meal walk decreases blood sugar levels more than a walk before eating. However, it is significant to emphasise that this study included young people who do not have diabetes. Hence, it may not represent broader populations because it did not contain information on other demographic factors, such as the participants’ race.
Improves Mental Health
It’s feasible to boost mental wellness through walking as it lowers stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline.
Walking causes the body to release endorphins, which have pain-killing properties. Studies suggest that these alleviate discomfort, improve mood, ease stress, and promote relaxation.
However, there is little evidence to support the claim that walking in particular after eating helps one’s mental health. If this is the main advantage a person seeks, they should try to fit a walk whenever it is most convenient for them.
Any regular exercise can aid in reducing insomnia. Walking can be a part of this workout. According to research, daily exercise may be just as good for some people as sleeping pills. An older study says that regular long-term exercise dramatically reduced the time it took adults to fall asleep.
But even those who don’t have insomnia can benefit from a leisurely walk after dinner. The quantity of slow-wave or deep sleep a person obtains at night can increase by engaging in moderate aerobic activity. However, strenuous activity can be energising and can disrupt sleep.
Blood Pressure Reduction
According to studies, regular exercise helps reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and blood pressure, promoting heart health. Furthermore, walking can also prevent heart disease and stroke risk.
The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises adults to engage in 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise at least five days a week for the best heart health.
One 30-minute walk after a meal or three 10-minute walks after breakfast, lunch, and dinner can help people accomplish this goal easily.
The HealthifyMe Note
According to studies, a quick stroll after eating can help someone control their blood glucose levels. Daily moderate exercise can also enhance sleep quality, strengthen the heart, and lessen gas and bloating.
Potential Drawbacks of Post Meal Walks
For most people, walking is a secure and healthy exercise. However, according to studies, some people may have stomach aches, weariness, or discomfort if they go for a stroll just after eating. It can result from the movement of food in the stomach, which can hamper digestion.
It may be preferable for some to wait before walking after a substantial lunch. Depending on the person and the meal size, a person should wait for a certain period. People should know how they feel after meals and figure out what works best for them because everyone’s digestion is unique.
Health advantages of walking include improved sleep and blood sugar control. You can also regulate blood pressure by walking regularly.
On the advantages of walking after eating, there is, however, little research. No matter what time of day it is, walking is good for your health in many different ways.
People should select the type, pace, and duration of walk that is most comfortable for them. For example, the CDC suggests 30 minutes of brisk exercise each day. For this reason, aiming for that level of movement is a good idea.