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If you love ending a meal with a quick walk outside, it turns out the practice is beneficial to more than just your digestive tract. According to new research published in the journal Sports Medicine, even walking for a quick 2 minutes after eating can help reduce blood sugar levels—which, in turn, may lower your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
To obtain their findings, the researchers analyzed the results of seven studies that compared how sitting versus standing or walking impacts heart health, specifically observing insulin and blood sugar levels. In five of the seven studies, none of the subjects had pre-diabetes or Type 2 diabetes. The other two studies observed people both with and without the health condition. All of the participants were asked to either stand or walk for about five minutes every 20 to 30 minutes throughout the day.
Across all seven studies, the researchers found that just a few minutes of light-intensity walking after a meal helped blood sugar levels rise and fall more gradually. (This is especially important for people with diabetes, who need to avoid dramatic blood sugar fluctuations.) In general, going for a short walk after eating significantly improved blood sugar levels as compared to sitting.
If you don't have time for a walk, standing for a brief period of time after a meal also showed a significant reduction in glucose and insulin levels when compared to sitting. However, the researchers note that light-intensity walking was found to be superior—and recommend walking after breakfast, lunch, and dinner if you're hoping to meaningfully reduce glucose and insulin levels.