For many years, I viewed walking as recreational, not as exercise.
I almost frowned upon it.
Until it changed my life.
And now it's something I aim to do at least once a day.
I share with you 6 reasons, backed by science, why you should take up walking and how to fit it into your life.
Hello again, I’m so happy you are joining me again for another episode of Beauty in Balance.
And today, I wanna talk about one of my favourite healing strategies, that formed a massive part of my own healing journey. Walking.
You may have heard me talk about this before, but walking has literally helped me to heal my body. And even to this day, when I walk, I have beautiful memories of that time.
So I wanted to share with you the benefits of walking and why I strongly encourage you to take up this habit in some way shape or form.
Walking is a wonderful habit to take on, but research also shows an added benefit when we walk shortly after a meal.
So as I share with you the benefits of walking, specifically after a meal, I want you to start thinking about how you can start implementing this in your life.
And what’s really important here, is that it doesn’t have to be a long walk. If you are really tight on time, start thinking how you can do literally 10 minutes of walking at least once a day.
So small beginnings are way more effective than big unfulfilled intentions.
So here are the 6 main benefits of walking, particularly after a meal:
Walking after a meal leads to improved fasting blood sugar and better insulin sensitivity - creating better metabolic health. We know, in our western world, a massive percentage of individuals suffer from metabolic disease, which includes high blood pressure, high cholesterol and blood sugar issues.
Research shows, exercising in the mid-postprandial phase (post-prandial meaning after a meal, within 30-120 minutes after eating) is the most effective time to buffer a glucose peak. Remember, we don’t want glucose peaks, we want gentle, rolling hills with no erratic curves when we look at the blood glucose response on a graph.
The reason why this has such a huge impact, is because it’s all about the timing of glucose uptake.
IF you exercise after a meal, while glucose is being released into the bloodstream, the uptake is much faster as you actually put that energy or fuel to use.
So this is especially helpful where we consume higher Glycaemic Index meals, like desserts, milkshakes, icecreams, etc. You wanna get up and move right away. This will buffer the negative effects of the high GI food as the glucose spike will be buffered.
So for example, having dessert after dinner is best taken as an ice cream, while walking on the beach.
So to recap, for high GI foods, or sugary meals, move immediately or while consuming it.
But after having a balanced, healthy dinner, it’s recommended that you go for a stroll within 30-120 minutes after finishing your meal.
This will help to reduce the insulin spike and therefore, protect you against developing insulin resistance in the long run.
As a side note, I also wanted to make you aware of the definition of a sedentary lifestyle and what the latest research indicates.
Scientists are starting to understand that moving more regularly during the day can potentially have more health benefits than being sedentary for the majority of the day and having one big workout somewhere in that day.
So in other words, your body needs to move every 30 minutes on top of the daily workouts that you do.
So maybe set your watch or phone timer to ping every 30 minutes so you can get up and take a 2-3 minute walk around the house, or around the office. I love walking to my veggie garden, pulling out a few weeds and then coming back to carry on with what it was that I was busy with.
You may feel that this may be very interruptive, but our brains work better with regular short breaks.
A short 2-3 minute break every 30-50 minutes is proven to improve productivity. So it’s an absolute win-win.
Ok, moving on to number 2:
Walking after a meal will improve digestion.
We know that walking after a meal will increase blood flow to the muscles in the gut, which are responsible for moving food along in the digestive tract. THis is called peristalsis and exercise or walking in this case, will increase effectiveness of these muscles and peristalsis will speed up.
And then on the topic of gut bacteria, exercise also affects the balance of bacteria in the gut, which also leads to improved digestion.
And faster gastric emptying will lead to less bloating, constipation and discomfort.
A definite win right?
This one you may be very familiar with, but walking is one of the best ways to decrease stress, particularly when we walk outside in nature.
Walking leads to an increase in the release of endorphins, which gives us a natural high and reduces the production of stress hormones. And less stress hormones, happier sex hormones and menstrual cycles!
Walking also rewires the brain in terms of the stress response, so it literally leads to a proactive, preventative approach to stress management. Why try to manage anxiety if you can prevent it, right?
Walking outside in nature also helps you to be more creative, gives you a clear mind and because of the increased endorphins, it increases overall happiness.
Walking also promotes production of serotonin. And serotonin leads to improved sleep, it helps regulate appetite, it improves learning and memory and increases positive feelings like joy. Yes please!
For me, walking has a calming effect on my body, it improves my mood significantly and helps with concentration.
But most of all, walking has always helped me to be more outward focused. It also leads to gratitude - every time I get outside and walk, I have a deep sense of gratitude in my heart. And it creates a sense of wellbeing.
Ok, moving on to number 4: Walking increases blood flow.
Walking at any pace is beneficial to increase blood flow throughout the body, as it is the best way to lower your blood pressure and increase muscle contraction in the legs. As muscles contract and relax, they squeeze around the large veins in the legs, promoting healthy circulation in more stagnant areas of flow.
So by walking, you’ll improve blood flow to the brain, heart, limbs and it leads to a healthier vascular system, which includes your heart, blood vessels and blood. And with a healthier vascular system, critical nutrients can get to all the organs, bones and muscles where they are needed.
Walking will improve lymphatic drainage.
Eliminating toxins from our system is so very important for a healthy immunity, healthy hormones and optimal health. Even for weight loss.
Our high levels of stress, sedentary lifestyles and too little movement all lead to a sluggish lymphatic system.
But when you go walking, your legs and especially the leg and calf muscles will act as a natural pump that will help to move the lymph fluid throughout your body.
Effectively getting rid of toxins will support your liver which will also improve hormonal balance.
And then lastly, walking after dinner will improve your sleep.
And who would say no thank you to that?!
As we discussed a little earlier in this episode, walking leads to an increase in the hormone serotonin, which is a precursor, or building block for melatonin. And you may have heard of melatonin, as it’s the hormone that helps us to have a good, healthy circadian rhythm and helps you to fall asleep at night.
And also, if you walk after dinner, you’ll remember that faster digestion is one of the great benefits, so you’ll go to bed with an emptied stomach, which will ensure that you are more comfortable.
Ok, so all these benefits are great, but you may be thinking “Vandghie, where on earth will I find time in my day to fit in yet another thing?”
So let’s start small.
How can you commit to only 10 minutes of walking from today?
Maybe you can get up 10 minutes earlier each morning, have your breakfast and for a quick 10 minute stroll around your neighbourhood?
On top of all the amazing benefits, it will also help you to set yourself up for the day. Your mind will be in a much better place than when you would shoot out of bed, and scramble to get out the door. This is definitely an experiment worth taking.
Or maybe another way that you can fit in a walk each day is by habit stacking. This is a principle I’ve learned from reading the book Atomic Habits, written by James Clear.
Instead of trying to start a new habit, stack your new habit onto an existing one and this will help you to be more successful.
This can look something like this:
After dinner, everybody helps to tidy the kitchen as per usual and then the entire family will get their walking shoes on and out the door you go for 15-20 minutes before everybody retires to their night routines or whatever it is that happens at night.
And let’s be honest, this is definitely way easier to do in summer, as the days are longer and the weather is more pleasant. But once you experience the benefit of this habit, trust me, you’ll start prioritising this, come rain or shine.
Can you perhaps think of a habit that you are consistently doing at the moment that will work well to stack your walking onto?
Maybe you can let me know, I would love to hear your ideas.
Remember friends, sitting is the new smoking. The more we can regulate this, the better for our health.
Also think about movement not as exercise, but a way to move your body. Don’t ever underestimate the importance and impact that non-exercise movement will have on your metabolic health. The more you move, the healthier and better your metabolism will work.
So there you have it, the 6 reasons why you should start walking more today!
This show is all about helping you find and adopt the tools that will lead to healthier hormones for you, which means you’ll feel amazing in your body.
I believe that every woman deserves to understand, love and feel amazing in her body!
So let’s get there together.
Ok my friends, if today’s episode meant anything to you, please share it with another lady that deserves to feel amazing.
Until next time, take care.