Why You Should End Every Day with a Passeggiata
Updated: Aug 9, 2021
It’s called a passeggiata, a short walk taken purely for pleasure, and many Italians do it multiple times a day, typically after meals. You won’t find anyone wearing an apple watch or spandex during these strolls, though. Instead, you’ll see them enjoying the sunlight, catching up with neighbors, or reconnecting as a family after a long day.
Beyond offering a pleasant end to your evening, passeggiatas can also garner some serious health effects.
By definition, a passeggiata is a leisurely stroll or walk, typically taken in the evening. It has been a tradition in Italy for centuries. In Italian cities and towns, every night you’ll find cobblestone streets full of people taking their evening passeggiatas. While Italians do it for pleasure, it may also be one of the secrets behind why Italians have a longer lifespan than the typically sedentary Americans.
If you take your passeggiata after dinner, you can reap even more benefits. The gentle physical activity and the fading light before nightfall can recalibrate your internal clock, helping you to sleep better. It’s a simple way to aid digestion, dampen the postmeal surge in insulin, and stimulate the metabolism- even if it doesn’t feel like exercise.
As a growing trend in the health and fitness community, more and more research is being published about the health benefits of a passeggiata. The National Institute on Aging sponsored a study on discovering the true health effects of passeggiatas. Taking an after-meal walk “really blunts the rise in blood sugar,” says the study’s lead author Loretta DiPietro, a professor and chair of the Department of Exercise Sciences at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Services.
“You eat a meal. You wait a half-hour and then you go for a 15-minute walk, and it has proven effective in controlling blood sugar levels, but you have to do it every day after every meal. This amount of walking is not a prescription for weight loss or cardiovascular fitness- it’s a prescription for controlling blood sugar,” she says. “Walking is beneficial because the muscle contractions help to clear blood sugar.”
Some of the findings from further research are below:
Improved digestion- A walk after a meal has been linked to improved digestion. Moving your body after eating can stimulate the stomach and intestines, causing food to move more rapidly through the digestive tract. Several studies have even found that an after-dinner walk can prevent diseases like heartburn, irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, peptic ulcers, and colorectal cancer. Physical exercise after eating can also have a protective effect on the GI tract.
Better blood sugar levels- Taking a passeggiata has also been found to improve blood sugar levels. This is especially beneficial for people with diabetes, because a passeggiata can help prevent spikes in blood sugar after a meal. One study found that a light 10-minute walk after a meal was superior to a 30-minute walk at any time in terms of blood sugar management for people with diabetes.
Lowered blood pressure- Several studies have found that an after-dinner walk can play a role in regulating blood pressure. Specifically, 3 daily 10 minute walks have been associated with lowered blood pressure levels. Moreover, several short walks per day are more effective for lowering blood pressure than one long walk.
After dinner is a good time to get up and walk with your partner, neighbor, or your pet. But even if you can’t make it outside, marching in place or around the house for 15 minutes will also do the job. But an outdoor stroll, where you can reconnect with your neighbors, friends, and nature is key in reducing overall stress levels.
So, incorporate a passeggiata into your wellness plan. It’s a simple way to prevent the post-meal surge in insulin, aid digestion, and stimulate metabolism without even feeling like you’re working out.
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