At the end of the day, when you are exhausted, it’s tempting to crash on the bed, immediately post your meal. Or, simply relax on your couch to watch your favorite soap or latest Netflix series. But, in the times when there was no idiot box, or internet, taking a walk after dinner, and walking after meals, was a common practice.
Walking after meals has multiple benefits, but discussing walking would be out of the context of our topic. We would stick to the benefits of walking after meals, and how this age-old tradition is not just good, but scientifically proven to be extremely beneficial for weight loss, controlling blood sugar, improving digestion and enhancing family bonding. Let’s discuss the 4 major benefits of walking after meals.
- The biggest effect of walking after post meals is on blood sugar. There are multiple studies that have clearly demonstrated the blood sugar lowering benefits of low-intensity walking after meals. Let’s see the supporting literature:
- In a 2009 study in the Journal of American Medical Directors Association, a US research team led by S.R. Coldberg, examined the differing effects of a single bout of pre- or postprandial moderate exercise or no exercise on the glycaemic response to an evening (dinner) meal in 12 men & women subjects with type 2 diabetes. Three trials were conducted on separate days consisting of a rest day when subjects consumed a standardized dinner with a moderate glycaemic effect and 2 exercise days when they undertook 20 minutes of self-paced treadmill walking immediately before or 15 to 20 minutes after eating.
Researchers found that twenty minutes of self-paced walking done shortly after meal consumption resulted in lower glucose levels at the end of exercise compared to values at the same time point when subjects had walked pre-dinner. Thus, Postprandial walking may be more effective at lowering the glycaemic impact of the evening meal in individuals with type 2 diabetes compared with pre-meal or no exercise.
- In a 2013 study in the journal Diabetic Care, a US research team, led by Loretta DiPietro, from The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services, compared the effectiveness of three 15-min bouts of post-meal walking with 45 min of sustained walking on 24-h glycaemic control in older persons at risk for glucose intolerance. Inactive, overweight & diabetic older participants were recruited from the community and were non-smoking. Participants engaged in light post-meal walking for 15min or 45min, at 10:30 A.M. or 4:30 P.M.
Researchers found that both sustained morning walking and walking after meals significantly improved 24h glycaemic control. Moreover, walking after meals were significantly more effective than 45min of sustained morning or afternoon walking in lowering 3h post-dinner glucose.
- In a 2015 study in the Journal of Applied Physiology, a US research team, led by Timothy D. Heden, from the University of Missouri, Columbia, determined what time is more effective, either pre- or post-dinner resistance exercise (RE), at improving postprandial risk factors in patients with type 2 diabetes. Thirteen obese patients with type 2 diabetes completed three trials in which they consumed a dinner meal with 1) no RE, 2) predinner RE, and 3) post-dinner RE beginning 45min after dinner.
The key clinically significant findings of this study are as follows: 1) both pre- and post-dinner RE reduces postprandial glucose concentrations, while only post-dinner RE reduces both postprandial glucose and TAG concentrations; 2) both pre- and post-dinner RE reduces insulin concentrations, but via different mechanisms, as predinner RE enhances estimated insulin clearance, whereas post-dinner RE reduces estimated insulin secretion and enhances estimated insulin clearance. Taken together, post-dinner RE is more effective at improving postprandial CVD risk factors compared with predinner RE in obese patients with type 2 diabetes.
- In a 2016 study in the journal Diabetologia, a research team from New Zealand, led by Andrew N. Reynolds, evaluated whether specifying the timing of walking in relation to meals enhances the benefits conferred by the physical activity guidelines. A total of 41 adults with type 2 diabetes, were either advised to walk 30min each day or 10min after each main meal.
Researchers found that the post-meal blood glucose was significantly lower when participants did walking after meals compared with on a single daily occasion. The improvement was particularly striking after the evening meal when the most carbohydrate was consumed and sedentary behaviours were highest.
- In a 2018 systematic review study in the journal Sports Medicine, a US research team, led by A. Borror, from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, reviewed all the studies to test the effects of postprandial exercise on glucose regulation in individuals with type 2 diabetes. Twelve studies met the criteria, involving 135 male & female participants. Postprandial aerobic exercise decreased short-term glucose rise by 3.4-26.6% and 24h prevalence of hyperglycemia by 11.9-65%. Resistance exercise decreased the short-term glucose area under the curve by 30% and 24h prevalence of hyperglycemia by 35%.
Researchers concluded that postprandial exercise may be an effective way to improve glucose control in individuals with type 2 diabetes. The most consistent benefits were seen in long-duration (≥45 min), moderate-intensity aerobic exercise. Resistance training also appears to be an effective modality. We recommend that individuals with type 2 diabetes focus on increasing energy expenditure after the largest meal of the day.
Mayo Clinic diabetes specialist Dr. Yogish Kudva says that even a little physical activity after meals has a profound impact on blood sugar levels… You don’t have to exercise a lot. Just walking the dog or washing the dishes after a meal, rather than going straight from the table to the TV, helps blood sugar control in people with Diabetes. Physical activity enhances insulin action hence lowering blood glucose concentration.
Dr. Kudva suggested that after a meal a person’s blood sugar climbs to mountainous levels. It peaks after about 60min and then reduces for the next few hours. The body handles this spike by manufacturing more insulin, which pushes the sugar into the “stand and walks” muscles of the body like the buttocks, trunk and thighs. He, further states that the food you eat needs to be delivered to the muscles to be used for active work.
Kudva, further states that all the cell and molecular mechanisms are built on the premise that the body moves all the time because we work physically. That’s the whole problem; today we eat three meals and sit all day. When we sit all day, the surplus fuel is washing around the bloodstream like a massive oil slick in the ocean. Now, because there is hardly any physical activity, the body is not using all the sugar in the blood, so the pancreas sends in even more insulin to use this sugar. This overexposure to insulin reduces the sensitivity of insulin and leads to the stage of prediabetes and ultimately diabetes.
- Walking after meals is one of the best methods you can use for weight/fat loss. A technique being used by our ancestors very effectively.
- In a 2011 study in the International Journal of General Medicine, Japanese researchers Yasuyo Hijikata & Seika Yamada found that the blood sugar is at its highest 30–60 minutes after a meal and reaches its lowest 2–3 hours after a meal in normal people. Researchers tested two women, one 60-year-old Japanese female with a family history of diabetes (who was made to walk after meal) and other 67-year-old Japanese female volunteer (who did not walk after meal), and measured blood sugar just before a meal and at 30, 60, 90, and 120 minutes after a meal was consumed without walking and with walking after meals for 30 minutes. The first volunteer lost nearly 3kg by fast walking after lunch and dinner for a one-month period, and the second volunteer participant lost nearly 1.5kg by walking at a slow pace for the same one-month period.
Researchers found that walking after meals were more effective for weight loss than waiting one hour after eating before walking. For people who do not experience abdominal pain, fatigue, or other discomforts when walking after meals, walking at a brisk speed for 30 minutes as soon as possible just after lunch and dinner lead to more weight loss than does walking for 30 minutes beginning one hour after a meal has been consumed.
- In a 2012 study in the journal Diabetes Care, C Manohar, and other researchers, during the study measured the NEAT movements continuously before and after volunteers consumed meals. The results were shocking. The people who sat after a meal, their blood sugar peaks like a mountain for about two hours. If, however people do a 15min walking after meals at just 1mph, the blood sugar levels drop down to half. Which means, just by taking 15min walk once after three meals will drop the blood sugar levels and keep diabetes at bay.
- Walking after meals actually aids digestion. Exercise stimulates peristalsis, which is the process of moving digested food through the GI tract.
- In a 2008 study in the Journal of Gastrointestinal & Liver Diseases, a German research team, led by A. Franke, from University Hospital of Heidelberg at Mannheim, studied 10 men, who immediately after a meal, received 40ml of either of the following liquids: brandy, herb flavoured liqueur, Williams pear brandy, aquavit (each 40 % ethanol concentration), espresso, water, 40% ethanol, and 70% glucose. On another occasion, subjects received 40 ml of water and walked afterward slowly (4km/h) on a treadmill.
Researchers found that gastric emptying time i.e. time of how quickly food leaves the stomach was not affected by postprandial consumption of alcoholic or other beverages. However, postprandial walking accelerated gastric emptying of the meal.
However, we need to understand that these effects get negated if the intensity of the workouts increases, post meals.
- In a 1989 study in the European Journal of Applied Physiology, a US research team, from the US Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, led by P.D. Neufer, examined the gastric emptying characteristics of water during treadmill exercise performed over a wide range of intensities relative to resting conditions, 10 men ingested 400ml of water prior to each of six 15min exercise bouts or 15min of seated rest. Bouts of walking & running exercises were performed at different intensities.
The study demonstrated that gastric emptying is increased during both moderate intensity walking or running exercise as compared to resting conditions. Increases in gastric emptying during moderate intensity treadmill exercise may be related to increases in intragastric pressure brought about by the contractile activity of the abdominal muscles.
- One of the biggest benefits which no one talks about walking after meals is the increase in the family bonding and emotional connection.
There is a very strong reason why having dinner together as a family was, and still is practiced in many places. Dinner time is a time for bonding of family. When a family used to sit for dinner, they used to share the happenings and mishappenings, the good and the ugly, and the happy and the sad happenings of the day.
The family members used to eat and laugh together. This used to continue when the entire family used to go for a walk post dinner, where they used to plan the next day. The couple used to discuss various ideas and issues pertaining to work and life. Children used to share their experiences with their parents, and the parents used to give them words of wisdom to be applied in their lives. That’s how the family bonded.
Not anymore. With the advent of the idiot box and equally idiot soaps on the television, and further the internet, forget about eating dinner together, the family members don’t even talk to each other for days. It’s not surprising that family members living under one roof, do not see or talk to each other for days.
It’s not possible to have dinner together for most families, let’s accept this fact practically. It can be due to varied work hours, or some other commitments. But the simplest and a very practical way to ensure that this culture is nurtured again is through post-dinner walks.
A senior or an authoritative member of the family can ensure, that whichever members of the family are present in the house, should be going for a small post-dinner stroll together. Initially, it may have to enforced and ensured, but once the habits sets in, they would hate to miss it. The health benefits, of course, are complementary.