We all know that exercise is a good thing and that walking is one of the best forms of exercise possible. It is low impact, safe for people who are not fit or healthy, and there is virtually no barrier to taking action. In fact many studies show that walking is one of the best things you can do for your health. It calms you down, lowers stress, keeps you physically active, and helps you keep your muscles and bones working rather than deteriorating.
The average person doesn’t have to worry too much about the dangers of dormancy but many people do have to stay active. Older people especially have to stay active to maintain their physical independence but what are the rules about walking? When should you do it and how should you walk? Are there better times of the day to exercise or is any time just as good as any other?
There are countless studies and theories that suggest that your ideal time to exercise is best and quite honestly it probably is fine to exercise when you feel like it most than any other time but for the purposes of this article let’s look at exercise after eating – the benefits of it as well as the dangers or pitfalls you might encounter.
Walking After Eating: Benefits To Keep In Mind
One of the best benefits of walking after eating I know of is that exercise immediately offsets some of the damage high fat meals can place on your heart and arteries. Basically a study in the European Journal of Applied Physiology showed that meals which contained high fat content caused the arteries of the body to immediately resemble that of a person with heart disease.
This is actually even more alarming for those people who already have heart disease or some other form of cholesterol or high blood sugar conditions. The study also confirmed however that walking after eating was able to mitigate the negative effects of the meal and bring the arteries back to a normal state faster. Basically this suggests that going for a walk after eating your meals is a good way to keep your arteries in their best shape possible.
Another reason why going for a walk after eating a meal is helpful is that most people end up eating a few meals every day. Getting in the habit of taking a short walk after each meal is a great way to habitualize the process and stay active throughout the day.
Why is this beneficial you may ask? Because staying active in short spurts throughout the day, rather than in one long session, is critical to maximizing the benefits of walking in regards to keeping your blood pressure under control.
Another study published in the Journal of Hypertension showed that taking multiple short walks every day had a more significant effect on keeping blood pressure lower than did one long walk. This means that if you were to take a short walk after every meal then you would be helping to mitigate the effects of fat on your artery walls as well as help keep your blood pressure lower for a longer period of time than if you took one long walk in the morning.
Why You Shouldn’t Walk After Eating
The flip side of this argument is the notable objections one can easily come with for not walking after eating. Namely the body is designed to constrict blood flow to the body while digestion is in process. When you eat and then go physically exert yourself you can run the risk of getting cramps or running low on energy. This is the prime reason why so many people say you shouldn’t go swimming after eating. Your body is hard-wired to send blood flow to your digestive track to improve its function.
Does this mean it's bad to go walking after eating? We all know that digestion is important; it's the primary driver for energy. Food is broken down and transformed into energy. Insulin produced in the pancreas then transports the energy in the form of glucose from the blood into the cells of your body. At first this drop off occurs in the digestive tract but it eventually transfers back to the rest of your body.
This is also why some people get sluggish after eating. The quick elimination of glucose from the blood can cause low blood sugar in some people that must be restored before one’s energy level can feel balanced again.
One excellent reason to not go walking or exercising after eating is to not disrupt this normal bodily process. In my opinion this is important but it’s not the end of the world for those who have well controlled blood sugar and energy levels.
Alternatives To Post-Meal Exercise
There is one alternative to exercising right after eating that I totally believe in. It is a timing thing that is very simple. If you go exercising immediately before eating then you will get the benefits of walking multiple times throughout the day and you may also get the benefit of offsetting artery damage that eating can inflict. This is not backed up by any studies but it makes sense.
Imagine going for a twenty minute walk and then immediately eating. Your body can then process and digest as it is intended and you get all the benefits of walking anyway, even while you rest. This makes sense to me and could work for many people. Plus, if you are really into the power of the mind you can get some side effect benefits as well. As you walk more often you will feel like you are making progress and that will keep you walking every day, multiple times a day well into the future.
You can also probably alternate walking before big meals and walking directly after small meals or snacks. This may make it easier on your digestive tract but may still transfer a lot of the benefits of post-meal exercise. The important thing is to walk every day. There are so many reasons to do so. Find your reason and then make it a habit.