The average American spends eight to 10 hours a day sitting. This is part of what makes walking so beneficial. When you’re walking you can’t be sitting. Sitting for more than eight hours a day is associated with a 90 percent increased risk of type 2 diabetes, along with increased risks of heart disease, cancer, and a host of other diseases.
But life is busy, right? We get it. If it feels hard to find the time, try to make a habit of going for a brief walk after you eat. Even a 15-20 minute walk is easily achievable during a work day lunch break. Plus, the health benefits abound.
Accelerate digestion and control blood sugar.
In people with high blood sugar levels (diabetes and pre-diabetes), walking for 20 minutes after a meal helps take the edge off the blood sugar spike. In fact, three short walks after each meal are better for blood sugar control than one long walk during the day. Briskly walking after a meal also lowers postprandial blood pressure and triglyceride levels.
It’s good for your brain.
Scientific research suggests that walking after a meal can improving memory in seniors, cognitive control and academic performance in preadolescents (especially those who need it most), and when done outdoors, walking can increase creativity in the young and healthy. Going for a walk in the woods is a surefire way to lower cortisol for all ages. The farther an older person can walk in six minutes, the better he or she performs on memory and logic tests; folks who perform poorly on the walking test tend to have reduced grey matter volume in certain sections of their brains. Aristotle’s famed tendency to walk as he taught students is suddenly making more sense!
Give your immune system a boost.
A brisk 20 minute walk will increase killer T-cells and other markers of immune function. Studies have also shown that among Japanese elderly, higher daily step counts correlate with improved mucosal immunity. Other studies have shown that when postmenopausal women are involved in a walking program, their normally harmful immune effects associated with menopause were greatly improved.
Walking helps to clear the mind and improve your mood.
When you drive, you can’t really focus on the interesting stuff occurring in the world around you. Even riding a bike can give you tunnel vision for the path in front of you. Walking, on the other hand, offers infinite chances for engagement with the outside world. See a rose? When you’re walking, you can stop and smell it. See a little path on the side of the trail heading somewhere cool? If you were driving, you’d have whizzed right past it. We all need a little more presence in our lives, and walking enables it.