It’s really easy to make a beeline for the sofa after dinner. You’ve had a long day and a satisfying meal, so a little “me time” is in order. Some television time or some screen scrolling is tempting.
But before retiring to this kind of relaxation, you might want to strap on your shoes and go for a short walk.
You might have heard that exercise can help keep blood sugar under control. And it’s true; exercise has been repeatedly shown to lower blood sugar. But guess what? You can get even more out of it if it’s appropriately timed.
Walking for about 15 minutes after you eat, particularly after dinner, can help prevent harmful blood sugar spikes that lead to metabolic conditions such as Type 2 diabetes.
One study from 2013 found that when people at risk for Type 2 diabetes went for a 15-minute post-meal walk, they had significantly smaller blood sugar spikes in the hours afterward. They even found the results were better than in people who went for 45-minute walks in the mid-morning or late afternoon.
Your body draws on glucose—sugar—from food to supply its fuel. When you walk and your muscles contract, stored glucose (glycogen) is being used. Those stores need to be refilled with blood glucose, which is shuttled to your cells by a hormone called insulin.
People with diabetes, prediabetes, or metabolic syndrome have impaired insulin activity, causing too much glucose to remain in the bloodstream. This can lead to several chronic health conditions.
Other studies have shown just 10 minutes of post-dinner walking is effective in bringing down blood sugar.
Walking post-dinner is likely most effective in bringing down blood sugar because it’s typically the time when glucose metabolism is at its slowest. Then, as you sleep and aren’t moving, glucose can sit in the bloodstream. Going for a walk in the evening can help keep glucose metabolism at a higher level throughout the night.
If you’re exercising to keep blood sugar under control, pay attention to timing. You could get significantly more benefit by walking after meals, particularly in the evening. Spending 10 to 15 minutes before settling down can pay big dividends.
Mohan Garikiparithi holds a degree in medicine from Osmania University (University of Health Sciences). He practiced clinical medicine for over a decade. During a three-year communications program in Germany, he developed an interest in German medicine (homeopathy) and other alternative systems of medicine. This article was originally published on Bel Marra Health.