In many households, including in India, it is a ritual to step out for a walk after dinner before hitting the sheets. Many also take a quick walk after lunch. The goal? To improve digestion.
But, is walking after eating really beneficial for digestion? Turns out it is, and here's why:
After you finish your meals, your body gets to work, it breaks down and absorbs the nutrients. A significant portion of the food breakdown or digestion takes place in the small intestine. Research suggests that walking after a meal can help in the faster transit of food from the stomach and into the small intestine.
How does this help? "The faster the food transits from your stomach into the small intestine, the lesser is you the likelihood of common complaints like bloating, gas, and acid reflux. Evidence also indicates that a post-meal 30-minute walk, coupled with routine exercise, can improve bowel function and lower the chances of constipation.
Postprandial walks not only ease digestive symptoms but can be quite beneficial for individuals with type-2 diabetes. Research from the New Zealand's University of Otago indicates that for people with type-2 diabetes, walking after meals is better at reducing blood sugar levels, especially following carb-rich meals. How does that happen? The body converts food into glucose, which is a major source of energy for the body. After consuming a meal, the blood glucose levels start rising.
In order to deal with this spike, the body secretes insulin, which helps drive the glucose into the cells. However, for diabetic individuals, the action of insulin is impaired, preventing the process of managing blood sugar levels. This can lead to high levels of glucose in the blood, increasing the risk of health problems. During a post-meal walk, glucose is utilized by the body to produce energy for the activity, aiding in lowering the level of glucose in the blood.
Now to address a key question - how long should you wait after a meal before you set off on your walk? Walking immediately following a meal may cause acid reflux and upset your stomach. "It is advisable to walk after a gap of 30-45 minutes after your lunch or dinner to experience the most benefits," says Singh.
It is also recommended to walk at an easy to moderate pace after your meals as increased intensity workouts may cause more blood to be drawn towards the working muscles and away from the gastrointestinal tract. This may cause your digestion to slow down and may also lead to indigestion.
Along with health benefits, a post-meal walk will also bring you closer to your goal of hitting 10,000 steps (a popular aspirational fitness goal) a day. Any sort of physical activity also triggers the release of endorphins, or ï¿½feel-good hormones', thereby relaxing the body. A post-meal walk is a positive step in that direction.
Now that you know the many benefits of a quick post-meal walk, it is time to make this small lifestyle change for better health and overall fitness.(By Vikas Singh)
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