Why You Should Start Walking After a MealDec 22, 2022
You’ve just finished yet another delicious and nutritious meal (check out our favorite lunch and dinner recipes). Do you usually head back to the office desk or lie on the couch? Or, do you take the more active approach and go for a walk?
While there is little evidence on the health benefits of walking after a meal, walking in general is found to improve health in several ways.
We say go for that walk after a plate of pecan bolognese over zoodles. Don’t knock it until you try it! Plus, walking after a meal may be especially beneficial for women in menopause.
Find all the health benefits to walking (whether this be after a meal or not) below!
Contributes to your recommended daily physical activity
You should be getting at least 30 minutes of exercise every day. This can easily be met by taking a quick 10-minute walk after each meal. No excuses!
Walking after a meal stimulates the digestive system. And when the digestive system is stimulated, so are your bowel movements, if you know what we’re getting at.
Low to moderate physical activity (such as walking) may also prevent gastrointestinal diseases like irritable bowel syndrome, colorectal cancer, peptic ulcers, and heartburn. Bye-bye upset tummies and uncomfortable symptoms.
Walking in general releases the happy hormone endorphin. Endorphins reduce stress, relieve pain, and boost mood.
Makes sense. When you’re on a walk, you get to enjoy the fresh air (yes, even when it’s cold out) and listen to the sounds of nature. You get to breathe deeply, enjoy the present, and clear your mind.
Alleviates joint pain
Walking lubricates your joints (such as your knee joint), leading to a smooth, low friction movement that increases range of motion, alleviates pain, and decreases stiffness.
Also, walking strengthens your leg muscles. With weak legs, your weight rests on your joints, ouch! This leads to inflammation, wear and tear, and pain. By consistently walking, you can get strong leg muscles to take the pressure off your joints.
Lowers blood pressure
Any regular physical activity can lower blood pressure and triglyceride levels. This protects against heart disease and stroke.
Reduces blood sugar levels
In short: when you walk, your muscle cells uptake sugar from the blood for energy use. This lowers blood sugar levels.
But why is this important? Here’s a longer, but important, answer.
For most people after they eat (especially carbs), their blood glucose levels spike. Their bodies then release insulin as a signal for cells to uptake this glucose for energy use and as a signal for the liver to store blood sugar for later use. This process lowers blood sugar levels and keeps it in the normal range.
For people with insulin resistance (which is a good chunk of the population and most of us menopausal women), it’s harder for these cells to respond to insulin and uptake sugar from the blood. Because of this, these cells need a stronger signal; more and more insulin gets pumped out to lower blood sugar levels. Eventually, not enough insulin can be made to keep blood glucose in the normal range. The liver then converts the extra blood glucose into fat, resulting in weight gain. Also, with too high blood sugar levels, people are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
Women near menopause are more likely to develop insulin resistance due to metabolic changes - during this time, your thyroid and adrenal hormone levels are fluctuating and estrogen levels are decreasing.
Moreover, insulin affects other hormones, including the “sex” hormones estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. During perimenopause and menopause, the sex hormones are imbalanced and cause hot flashes and weight gain, amongst other symptoms. If you have insulin resistance, then you will not be able to relieve these menopausal symptoms. Definitely NOT FUN!.
As always, we’re here to offer guidance and help. You can prevent or reverse insulin resistance and keep those blood glucose levels in check.
One way is by eating clean, whole foods that are low in refined carbs and sugar an high in protein and healthy fats.
A second way is with exercise! Resistance training and light-intensity walking have been shown to significantly improve blood sugar levels compared to sitting after a meal. This is because both types of activities engage muscles more than sitting or standing. When muscles are engaged, they use the fuel from just-eaten food by soaking up glucose in the blood.
Physical movement multiple times a week also helps regulate the metabolism and leads to more balanced hormones. Awesome!
We’ve talked about all the benefits to walking after a meal (or walking in general). However, there are a few minor precautions to keep in mind.
High-intensity exercise can lead to an upset stomach and digestive issues. Instead of taking a walk that should really be classified as a light jog, go for a gentle stroll. This looks like a low to moderate-intensity walk that doesn’t cause you to lose your breath. Upset stomach be gone!
Otherwise, some people experience discomfort or abdominal pain if they walk right after a large meal. There’s more food moving around in your tummy, inhibiting digestion. If you went for seconds of your favorite pasta dish tonight, maybe wait a bit before taking a walk.
Overall, walking is great for your health in a number of ways. You can benefit from walking no matter the time of day. However, if you walk after a meal, bonus benefits include a boost in digestion and a reduction in blood sugar levels. The latter is especially important for women in perimenopause or menopause (that’s us!), as they are more prone to getting insulin resistance.
Let us know if you start walking after a meal and how you like it!