Nov. 24, 2022—Gathering friends and family for a holiday feast is part of what makes the season special. But when your meal is done, you may not want to settle down on the sofa just yet. Instead, consider inviting your guests for a quick walk around the block. It might help your health more than you realize.
One potential benefit? Even if your stroll is brief, it could help your body control the rise in blood sugar that occurs after you eat a meal, suggests a report in the journal Sports Medicine. This, in turn, may help you manage or ward off diabetes.
Researchers analyzed the results of seven previously published studies. They wanted to know how using short bouts of walking or standing to break up prolonged sitting might help protect sedentary adults from cardiovascular disease and diabetes risk factors.
Among the key findings? Compared to sitting, both standing breaks and short walks of at least two minutes seemed to lower blood sugar and insulin levels significantly after eating. But light walking—which increases muscle contractions more than standing and helps the body use glucose—improved blood sugar and insulin control the most.
A beneficial exercise
Sitting too much has been linked to poor health and even early death. Going for walks may help to offset those sedentary risks.
And when walking is done regularly, it may bring you additional benefits. The American Heart Association reports that walking may help you to lower your risk for heart disease and certain types of cancer. And it may help you to control your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, along with your weight.
What's more, walking is a great way to lift your mood and let go of stress. On top of all that, it's a fun way to spend time with your family.
Make it a habit
It doesn't cost a lot of money to start a walking program. To be on the safe side, it may be a good idea to check with your doctor if you haven't exercised in a long time or you have questions about exercising with any health conditions you may have.
Check out our Fitness and exercise topic center to learn more about how and why to get moving.
- American Diabetes Association. "Stepping Up to Diabetes—The Power of Walking." https://diabetes.org/healthy-living/fitness/diabetes-walking-plan.
- American Heart Association. "Why is Walking the Most Popular Form of Exercise?" https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/walking/why-is-walking-the-most-popular-form-of-exercise.
- Mental Health America. "Get Physically Active." https://mhanational.org/get-physically-activehttps://mhanational.org/get-physically-active.
- National Library of Medicine. Just 30 minutes of daily exercise can help correct a day of sitting. https://magazine.medlineplus.gov/article/just-30-minutes-of-daily-exercise-can-help-correct-a-day-of-sitting.
- Sports Medicine (2022) 52:1765–1787. "The Acute Effects of Interrupting Prolonged Sitting Time in Adults with Standing and Light-Intensity Walking on Biomarkers of Cardiometabolic Health in Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis." https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007/s40279-022-01649-4.pdf.