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Why you should walk after dinner

Why you should walk after dinner

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Is there any benefit to your health from an evening stroll? Personal trainer Andrew Cate examines the impact of a light workout at night.

Why exercise at night

Many people struggle to find the time to exercise and for some the best time to exercise is the time you can fit it in!

Any exercise has benefits, and this is also true for exercising in the evening. These benefits include:
  • Relieves stress at the end of the day
  • Burns kilojoules, boosts circulation and elevates heart rate
  • Reduces the opportunity and tendency for eating dessert, late night snacks, or drinking alcohol with dinner
  • Encourages you to eat small portion sizes to avoid stomach discomfort
  • Ideal for people who have to get up early, or who don't enjoy exercising in the morning

The science of why you should walk after dinner

A study published in the International Journal of General Medicine examined the affect on blood sugar levels from exercising after a meal. 

After we eat we see a spike in blood sugar which stimulates the release of insulin, and promotes fat storage. 

The researchers found that walking as soon as possible after a meal reduced the increase in blood sugar levels associated with eating. It could be assumed that circulating blood sugar would be used up by the working muscles during a walk, and this would restrict the insulin increase that occurs in response to a meal. 

The participants that walked for 30 minutes after dinner were most successful at losing weight. What was surprising was that while there is a widely held belief that people who exercise just after eating will experience fatigue, stomach ache and abdominal discomfort, no ill effects were reported  during the study, 

While the results were positive, it's important to note that this study used a very small subject base, and that additional research would be required to further support these findings.

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5 tips on exercising after dark

  • Don't delay

    If a healthy waistline is your goal, it is better to walk as soon as possible after your evening meal (within 30 minutes). This helps to better control blood glucose levels and reduce the release of fat storage hormones
  • Consider safety

    Wear brightly coloured clothing to increase your visibility. Reflective strips or panels are available on some shoes and clothing. Look for well-lit paths, and take something with you if personal safety is a concern, such as a torch, whistle, dog or companion
  • Multitask

    Use your evening stroll as a chance to talk to a friend on your phone, listen to podcasts or audio books, walk the dog, or spend time with your partner. Whatever helps to eliminate excuses, and make good use of your time
  • Cool down

    Any form of exercise will boost your metabolic rate and core body temperature. While walking will be less likely to interfere with sleep compared to intense exercise, it's wise to give your body time to unwind. Aim to finish your evening stroll at least 60 minutes before bed
  • Mix it up

    If you start to exercise more in the evenings, experiment with different durations, intensities and activities to see what works best. If it interferes with your sleep, scale things back, or you may be able to step things up a fraction if it's having no affect

Source: Hijikata et al. Walking just after a meal seems to be more effective for weight loss than waiting for one hour to walk after a meal. Int J Gen Med. 2011:4; 447–450.