A Short Walk After Eating May Boost Your Heart Health

Making big lifestyle changes for our health, like going for an early morning run or hitting the gym during your lunch break, probably sounds daunting. But smaller changes could add up, and new research shows that making time for even a few minutes of movement throughout our day can have huge health benefits (via WebMD).

After we eat, carbohydrates are digested into sugar that's used for energy, known as blood sugar or blood glucose (via Healthline). Whatever we don't use immediately is stored in our cells for later. Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas that helps control our blood sugar. However, if our cells don't respond to insulin properly, sugar will keep circulating in the bloodstream, leading to high blood sugar. And the more we eat and gain weight, the less sensitive our bodies become to insulin, which can lead to type 2 diabetes.

A new review of research published in the journal Sports Medicine explored the effects of sitting versus standing or walking after having a meal, finding that even just a few minutes of standing or walking could greatly improve your blood sugar levels and reduce your risk for type 2 diabetes and heart problems.

Managing blood sugar after a meal

The review analyzed seven studies that looked at the effects of standing or light walking over the course of an entire day, as compared to remaining sedentary. They found that even just two to five minutes of light physical activity following a meal could reduce blood sugar and insulin levels (via WebMD).

Blood glucose peaks about 60-90 minutes after a meal, so those participants who stood up within this time frame, even just for a few minutes, had improved blood sugar levels, according to TODAY. Those who took a short walk following their meal had both improved blood sugar and insulin levels, and their blood sugar also decreased and increased more slowly instead of spiking and dropping. Getting up to walk around the office or do a few minutes of housework following a meal could be enough to engage muscles and use up extra glucose, which could help prevent diabetes and cardiovascular issues.

Dr. Kershaw Patel, a preventive cardiologist at Houston Methodist Hospital, explained to WebMD that even small steps could have lasting benefits. While the gradual change may not seem monumental, it's these incremental actions that lead to better overall health.