If you’re intrigued by the idea that less is more when it comes to exercise, you’ve come to the right place. In fact, this powerful and science-based principle is foundational as you transition to a ketogenic diet and lifestyle, and it’s certainly a paradigm shift that changed my life in a profound way.
I am here to assure you that logging long gym sessions and spending hours each week dragging yourself on long runs or activities that you don’t genuinely enjoy and don’t fit into your busy life does not have to be the answer to achieving metabolic flexibility, reaching a state of ketosis and truly glowing from the inside out. Instead, you can walk your way to better health.
The simple yet powerful truth is that by the simple act of adding a walk in after meals, you will boost your metabolism and help digestion in a major way. The Italians have a tradition called the passeggiata, which is a leisurely post-meal walk. It’s not just any old walk though; it’s a time to come together with community and stroll with ease and joy for life. I share this post with you on walking today in hopes you can infuse this intentional meaning of your daily walk into your whole-life keto diet. And this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to walking. Consider these 10 reasons why walking is one of the best exercises to complement and enhance a keto diet.
10 Reasons Why Walking is the Perfect Exercise for a Keto Lifestyle
1. Lowers Insulin
Probably the most exciting benefit as far as using it as another tool to reach the nutritional state of ketosis, post-prandial walking (after meals) has been shown to lower the glycemic impact of meals in type 2 diabetics when compared to pre-meal walking or no exercise. In fact, short bouts of 15-minute walks might even lower insulin and blood glucose levels after meals more so than longer walks.1 And you don’t have to have diabetes or any other metabolic disorder to benefit from general insulin and blood management using walking as a tool. More on this in a moment but know that if you’re new to keto and looking for ways to more quickly reach ketosis, walking will certainly facilitate this shift.
Everybody wants a better mood, and walking provides just that. One study found that the more steps people took during the day, the better their moods were and the more energetic they felt. This is because walking releases natural endorphins throughout the body that leave you feeling happier and more at-ease.2,3,4,5
If you’re feeling that your exercise routine is actually having just the opposite effect, consider you, and consider how you can adjust it.
3. Improves Circulation
A brisk walk raises your heart rate, lowers blood pressure and strengthens the heart muscle, leaving you with a healthy glow.6,7 The circulatory system delivers oxygen, nutrients, and hormones to your body’s organs and cells, and plays a critical role in every aspect of health. Poor blood circulation can also lead to a pale, unhealthy skin tone, fine lines, and wrinkles. Want to walk your way to better skin? I don’t know any women who would say no to that, myself included.
4. Strengthens Bones and Muscles
Walking is the most basic and functional weight-bearing exercise of all, and these types of exercises are essential for healthy bones and muscles. The density of certain bones like the hipbone can lower your risk of fractures, not to mention better muscle strength, balance and less chance of falling.8,9
5. Supports Quality Sleep
Exercise has been shown to boost the effect of the body’s sleep hormone, melatonin.10,11 Especially if you can take your walk first thing in the morning and outdoors, this naturally supports the body’s circadian rhythm and healthy sleep-wake patterns. For this exact reason, some people find that exercising later in the day or at night is problematic for sleep.12 You know your system best though; choose the time of day based on what feels best to you and of course what’s most convenient because the best walking plan is the one where you actually walk.
6. Improves Brain Function
A 2018 study found that walking just three times per week improved cognitive function; making it a powerful tool to prevent and delay the onset of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and cardiovascular dementia.13
7. Keeps Your Heart Healthy
High level studies have shown that both moderate and intense regular walking can decrease your risk for stroke, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes, all major risk factors for heart disease. In fact, this same study found that walking was just as effective as running for heart health.14
These next three benefits of walking might seem a little different than the physiological benefits discussed above, but I’ve found that the ease in which various exercise modalities can work seamlessly and effortlessly into my lifestyle makes all of the difference.
What is simpler and more natural than walking? The human body was designed to walk throughout the day, and today’s sedentary lifestyle has robbed you of the most important and innate way to move. The beautiful simplicity of walking for health is that you can do it anywhere and at just about every fitness level. Whether that means taking 80-minute walks (the ideal time for activating autophagy using low-level aerobic activity) or simply fitting in a 15-minute stroll after dinner or during your lunch break, walking simply yet powerfully provides outstanding health benefits. 15,16
Walking can manifest in countless ways. It might take the form of leisurely walks with your family, power-walking with a friend or to music that inspires and motivates, and you can also use it a modality in other forms of exercise, particularly high-intensity interval training (HIIT). I talk a lot about the amazing benefits of HIIT in my New York best-selling book, Glow15, as it’s been shown to improve metrics of cardiometabolic health, decrease your risk for type 2 diabetes, among other benefits.
While a lot of people feel intimidated by the words “high intensity,” walking can actually be a perfect way to implement high-intensity intervals for many. For example, you can walk on an incline (on a hill outside or on a treadmill) for 30 seconds to 1 minute. HIIT can be just that simple.
Unlike some forms of exercise, walking requires no fancy gear or equipment, and you can do it just about anywhere. This includes around your hotel if you’re traveling, taking the stairs or parking several blocks away from your destination, and of course, walking out your front door as often as possible to get in some extra steps. I found that once I built the habit of walking more in my daily life, it slowly but surely became second nature. Instead of driving short distances, I naturally began to assume that I would walk whenever possible. This is probably the number one way my exercise was completely overhauled: simply by walking more almost every day.
Keto Diet and Walking
Low-level aerobic activity is one of the main pillars of exercise on a keto diet and lifestyle and walking fits in perfectly. Aerobic exercise is considered anything that lasts more than three minutes, as opposed to anaerobic exercise that involves short, intense burst of all-out effort, like HIIT.
Walking is a low-moderate intensity exercise that does not specifically require glucose as a fuel source and including walking as part of your regular routine can accelerate the body’s metabolic transition to becoming a fat burner. We know that lowering insulin and balancing blood sugar is a huge component of this transition, so including post-prandial (post-meal) walks for around 15 minutes will truly make a huge difference on your road to keto-adaptation.17
As tempting as it can be after a long day to cuddle up with on the couch after dinner and call it a night, consider the vast benefits that walking provides, and imagine that those benefits are further escalated when you walk after eating. For me, it’s been a special time to connect with my family while knowing I’m doing my body some incredible favors. It’s my own passeggiata and I invite you to join me in a daily walk to celebrate life. After all, we’re embarking on this keto diet with purpose and what better way to enjoy the life we hope to embellish with increased well-being than to walk, notice the beauty around us and fill ourselves with appreciation!
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Sources and References
- DiPietro, Loretta, et al. “Three 15-Min Bouts of Moderate Postmeal Walking Significantly Improves 24-h Glycemic Control in Older People at Risk for Impaired Glucose Tolerance.” Diabetes Care, American Diabetes Association, 11 June 2013, http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/early/2013/06/03/dc13-0084
- Gilani, Seyed Reza Mousavi, and Abdurrashid Khazaei Feizabad. “The Effects of Aerobic Exercise Training on Mental Health and Self-Esteem of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus Patients.” Health Psychology Research, PAGEPress Publications, Pavia, Italy, 11 Mar. 2019, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6441819/
- Anderson, Elizabeth, and Geetha Shivakumar. “Effects of Exercise and Physical Activity on Anxiety.” Frontiers in Psychiatry, Frontiers Media S.A., 23 Apr. 2013, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3632802/
- DiLorenza, Thomas, et al. “Long-Term Effects of Aerobic Exercise on Psychological Outcomes.” Preventive Medicine, Academic Press, 25 May 2002, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0091743598903851?via%3Dihub
- Sharma, Ashish, et al. “Exercise for Mental Health.” Primary Care Companion to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, Physicians Postgraduate Press, Inc., 2006, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1470658/
- Zheng, Henry, et al. “Quantifying the Dose-Response of Walking in Reducing Coronary Heart Disease Risk: Meta-Analysis.” SpringerLink, Springer Netherlands, 22 Mar. 2009, https://doi.org/10.1007/s10654-009-9328-9
- Stamatakis, Emmanuel, et al. “Self-Rated Walking Pace and All-Cause, Cardiovascular Disease and Cancer Mortality: Individual Participant Pooled Analysis of 50 225 Walkers from 11 Population British Cohorts.” https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/52/12/761
- Feskanich, Diane. “Walking and Leisure-Time Activity and Risk of Hip Fracture in Postmenopausal Women.” JAMA, American Medical Association, 13 Nov. 2002, https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/195504
- Ma, Di, and Liping Wu. “Effects of Walking on the Preservation of Bone Mineral Density in Perimenopausal and Postmenopausal Women.” Menopause, 1 Nov. 2013, http://insights.ovid.com/pubmed?pmid=24149921
- Buxton, O M, et al. “Acute and Delayed Effects of Exercise on Human Melatonin Secretion.” Journal of Biological Rhythms, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Dec. 1997, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9406031
- Sherrill, Duane L. “Association of Physical Activity and Human Sleep Disorders.” Archives of Internal Medicine, American Medical Association, 28 Sept. 1998, https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/article-abstract/209315
- Seo, Dae Yun, et al. “Morning and Evening Exercise.” Integrative Medicine Research, Elsevier, Dec. 2013, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5481716/
- Hackett, Ruth A, et al. “Walking Speed, Cognitive Function, and Dementia Risk in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing.” Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, John Wiley and Sons Inc., Sept. 2018, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6127007/
- Williams, Paul T, and Paul D Thompson. “Walking versus Running for Hypertension, Cholesterol, and Diabetes Mellitus Risk Reduction.” Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, May 2013, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4067492/
- Serwe, Katrina M, et al. “Effectiveness of Long and Short Bout Walking on Increasing Physical Activity in Women.” Journal of Women’s Health (2002), Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., Feb. 2011, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3064872/
- Harvard Health Publishing. “Walking: Your Steps to Health.” Harvard Health, https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/walking-your-steps-to-health
- Volek, Jeff S, et al. “Metabolic Characteristics of Keto-Adapted Ultra-Endurance Runners.” Metabolism: Clinical and Experimental, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Mar. 2016, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26892521