After a big meal at night, even the lightest form of physical activity may be the furthest thing from your mind. But as it turns out, there are many benefits of walking after eating that we should all take note of.
We’re not just talking about boosting our endorphins or reducing stress levels when going on these leisurely serotonin-inducing strolls. Walking after eating has been proven to do many things for our overall health and it’s definitely something to consider for future meals. But don’t just take our word for it. Below, Dr. Heather Viola, DO, primary care physician at Mount Sinai Doctors-Ansonia, breaks down all the reasons you should be taking a post-meal walk after breakfast, lunch r dinner.
The Benefits of Walking After Eating
Viola says walking after eating has five primary health benefits: it will improve digestion, may reduce the risk of heart disease, improve blood sugar management, help maintain a healthy weight, and promote better sleep patterns. She breaks it down as the following:
Bloating, constipation, acid reflux, upset stomach—all are uncomfortable signs you may have indigestion after you eat. One way to relieve those symptoms is with a quick walk. “Walking after eating [stimulates] your stomach and intestines, making your food move through you more quickly and [aid with digestion],” says Viola.
Reduce Heart Disease Risk
Studies have always shown that regular forms of exercise are great for your heart health. It is shown to lower your blood pressure and cholesterol and reduce the risk of heartburn, heart attack, stroke, and other heart problems. One study even shows that doing small quick exercises, such as a 10 to 15-minute walk after meals, over one long workout might be more beneficial to reducing the chances of heart disease.
Regulate Blood Glucose Levels
Viola says that not moving after eating might result in excessive spikes in your blood sugar levels (this is also a tenant of the Jessie Inchauspé, also known as the Glucose Goddess). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains that having too much blood sugar in the bloodstream will overwhelm our liver and muscles that normally store blood sugar and cause the insulin in our bodies to store any excess in other places. If this keeps happening, it will make our bodies insulin-resistant over time and set the stage for pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes.
Studies show that walking after eating will help in a reduction in blood sugar levels and is an effective way to lower those risks.
Promote Healthy Weight Loss
Exercising regularly is the most effective way to be healthy, but even a short walk after a meal can help with maintaining or losing weight. Viola explains that you must burn more calories than you take in to lose weight (to lose one pound, you’ll need to burn about 3,500 calories, she says) and that your body expends more energy when you walk, thus burning more calories. Walking will also help with appetite regulation and curb the urge to grab those unhealthy snacks in between meals.
She advises a brisk walk of 3 to 4 miles per hour, but even a light walk at a slower pace will still do some good over just sitting and doing nothing.
Viola explains that walking after dinner particularly helps regulate circadian rhythms; it enhances the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle, making it easier to fall asleep and enjoy deeper, restorative rest. She adds that because these walks can help with post-meal stomach discomfort, it also allows for a more comfortable and—more importantly—uninterrupted sleep throughout the night.
When should you take a walk after eating?
According to Viola, there is no specific time frame to start your walk. You can go immediately after you eat, as some studies show that is the time that reaps the most benefits. But she says that you might encounter stomach discomfort if you do any physical activity soon after a meal, so it could be worth waiting 15 minutes or so before walking. “It really comes down to how you’re personally feeling,” she says.
How long should a walk after eating be?
This all depends on your goals. If you just want to help digest food more easily, Dr. Viola says a 10-minute walk around the block after each meal is enough to be beneficial. But if you’re looking to improve your overall fitness goals or reach those 10,000 steps, then she recommends going for about a 30-minute walk.
Don’t Overdo It
While walking is encouraged after eating, Viola advises against doing anything more extraneous like jogging or rigorous exercise as it will lead to digestion problems. “The problem with jogging is that blood flow is needed for your working muscles to deliver the oxygen and fuel that they need,” she explains. “This leaves your digestive system without the blood flow that it needs to process food. Eating shortly before more vigorous exercise can overwhelm the digestive system and potentially lead to cramping and discomfort once exercise begins.”
Simply put, the benefits of walking are so good for you that there’s hardly any reason not to want to do it regularly. It’s an easy way to keep your health in check, and that’s all anyone really wants.