Walking has been called an exercise “superfood” because of all the wonderful things it does for our bodies.

Now, there’s another benefit to add to the list: walking for just two to five minutes after a meal can help prevent a sharp spike in blood sugar after eating, according to a review of studies.

Standing can also help — anything that can break up prolonged periods of sitting — but low-intensity walking was the “top physical activity break,” researchers reported in the journal Sports Medicine.

Walking after meals is just another simple habit people can add to their routine to be healthier, says Lisa Young, a registered dietitian nutritionist in New York City.

“If you must start with a meal, do it after dinner, when you tend to be least active,” Young, who was not involved in the new study, said today.

“People are overwhelmed because they think healthy living is so complicated, (but) every little step helps: sleep regularly, manage stress, walk, eat more vegetables – it’s all part of the puzzle.”

Blood sugar management

Blood sugar rises after eating carbohydrates, so the body releases insulin to lower blood sugar. But glucose can end up staying high in people who have insulin resistance, Young said.

For Americans with diabetes, managing blood sugar is important to help prevent serious health problems, such as heart disease, vision loss and kidney disease, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have warned.

But even healthy people can have blood sugar spikes after eating, according to a 2018 study.

When prolonged, these spikes can contribute to cardiovascular disease risk and a person’s tendency to develop insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes, said Michael Snyder, a professor of genetics at the University of Stanford and lead author of the study, in a statement.

Muscles are important for controlling blood sugar, so when people aren’t moving, that process doesn’t work as efficiently, Keith Diaz, assistant professor of behavioral medicine at Columbia University Medical Center in New York, told TODAY.

A quarter of Americans sit more than eight hours a day and 40% do not exercise during the week, according to a study published in JAMA.

Walk after dinner

This is where walking after a meal can help. The new analysis looked at seven studies that measured the impact of interrupting prolonged sitting with frequent breaks from standing and light walking on cardiometabolic health. These studies asked participants to take “sedentary breaks” of two to five minutes every 20 to 30 minutes.

After reviewing the results, the researchers found that standing and low-intensity walking improved blood sugar metabolism after eating compared to prolonged sitting after a meal. But a short walk had a “significantly greater” effect than standing, the authors wrote.

“It makes sense that muscle contraction and muscle activation soon after walking might prevent this spike in blood sugar after eating,” Young said of the findings.

“I think it’s any exercise that works the muscles and gets the heart rate up.”

Walking is probably the easiest and most convenient exercise for most people, so Young recommended keeping walking shoes within sight as a reminder to take a brisk walk within 30 minutes at a time. hour after a meal.

It’s especially important after dinner, traditionally the biggest meal of the day and the meal after which people often watch TV for hours without moving much and then fall asleep, she noted.

If a person has absolutely no time for a quick walk after eating, walking up and down stairs or walking on a treadmill for a few minutes could also be effective, Young said.

Any movement is better than eating a big dinner and sitting for hours afterwards. “It could probably also help with weight management at the same time,” she noted.