After a large, satisfying meal, the last thing you want to do is likely the best thing for you. While you may want to sprawl out on the couch with your favorite show or social media app, chances are that your body would much prefer to get up and move around a little. No, it’s probably not itching for you to run out and do CrossFit for an hour right after eating, but it likely wouldn’t be opposed to a little light movement like an evening stroll around the block.
Deciding to take a short post-meal walk before you move on to the rest of your evening routine is a decision that will yield many benefits, particularly when it comes to your digestive health. Don’t believe us? Let’s dive into the details about why choosing to take an evening walk after eating may just be a game-changer for your digestion.
The Science Behind Post-Meal Walks and Digestion
To fully understand why walking after eating aids digestion, it’s first important to understand how your digestive system works. From the moment food enters your mouth, your body gets to work breaking it down and moving it through your digestive system so that all the nutrients can be absorbed and waste can be properly eliminated. Food will first travel from your mouth to your stomach, then on to your intestines where it will be broken down with the help of beneficial gut bacteria, bile, and digestive enzymes. Throughout this process, nutrients are released from the food and absorbed by your body.
Whatever remains after the meal has been fully digested will continue moving through the remaining sections of your intestines so your body can eliminate any waste or toxins that it doesn’t need. All in all, the complete process of digestion usually takes a full day or two.
With that being said, digestion isn’t a process that happens at a consistent rate. While your digestive system does work day and night, it does speed up and slow down based on a variety of factors, such as your body position and sleeping rhythms. For example, your digestion system operates better when you are sitting upright instead of lying down and it slows its processes down while you are sleeping.
So, how does walking play into all of this? Well, another key factor that can influence how quickly your body digests food is movement. Physical activity has been found to stimulate the stomach and intestines which can help food move through the digestion process more quickly and efficiently. Because of this, walking after eating a large meal such as dinner can kickstart the digestive process and help avoid discomforts like bloating or indigestion. Additionally, large evening meals that are enjoyed close to bedtime can sit heavy in your stomach, causing discomfort and disrupted sleep. By taking a short stroll before heading to bed, you are more likely to avoid those discomforts so you can get a more restful night of sleep.
Additional Benefits of Walking After Eating
In addition to supporting healthy, efficient digestion, walking after eating a meal can offer many other benefits, including…
It Supports Blood Sugar Regulation
It’s normal for your blood glucose levels to spike temporarily after eating a meal, especially if that meal was loaded with carbohydrates. While these occasional blood sugar spikes are normal, experiencing them consistently over time can lead to health concerns down the road. Researchers have found that walking after eating can help regulate your blood sugar levels, helping to prevent those high blood sugar levels and protect your long-term health.
It Aids in Weight Management
It’s no secret that aerobic activities like walking, can support weight loss and maintenance efforts, but did you know that timing also matters? When it comes to walking for weight loss, you may be inclined to wait an hour or so after eating to lace up your shoes and head out. However, research suggests that it may be more beneficial to go for your walk immediately after finishing your meal if you are looking to reach or maintain a healthy weight.
It Promotes High-Quality Sleep
Another surprising benefit of moving your body after a meal is that it can help you achieve more restful sleep. Low-impact physical activity such as walking has been connected to better sleep quality and duration, which means that heading out for a light walk after you eat can help you get a more restful night of sleep. Also, remember what we said earlier about walking helping to kick-start digestion? This digestive boost can help keep digestive discomforts at bay so they don’t keep you up at night.
It Boosts Mental Health
Exercise of all kinds can help improve your mood, and that includes even short, leisurely walks. When you move your body, your brain produces “feel-good” chemicals like endorphins and serotonin, which are known to help reduce pain, increase positive emotions, and even improve cognitive function. What’s more? Going for a walk outdoors can also help lower your stress levels, improve sleep, and help you feel more in control over yourself and your life.
How Long Should You Walk After Dinner?
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you have to go for a brisk walk for at least 30 minutes every day for it to be effective. Even a short 10-15 minute walk after dinner can help kick-start digestion and support your overall well-being.
With that being said, if you are walking at a leisurely pace, are feeling comfortable, and enjoying your stroll, feel free to walk for 30 minutes or more. Alternatively, if you are choosing to stick to short walks, then consider walking more frequently, such as after every meal, to increase your daily physical activity and improve your overall health.
How Fast Should You Walk?
Intense physical activity immediately after eating may cause discomfort like an upset stomach, so if you are choosing to walk right after you finish a meal, it’s best to keep the intensity down. A light to brisk pace that allows you to comfortably hold a conversation will still provide health benefits while also reducing the chances that you experience tummy troubles while you are out.
What is the Best Time of Day to Walk?
As we mentioned earlier, walking after dinner can be particularly beneficial when it comes to getting your digestive system primed for a comfortable and restful night of sleep. However, evening walks aren’t the only way to go – each time of day has its own health benefits. For example, walking in the morning can help regulate your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle while an after-lunch stroll can provide a boost of energy to help get you through that afternoon slump. Essentially, no matter what time you choose to walk, just getting out there and getting some daily steps in can be beneficial to your health.
Live the #NewEarthLife
As you can see, there is no doubt that getting up and doing some light walking after a meal comes with amazing benefits. Plus, it’s a simple habit that is easy to incorporate into your daily routines since you can do it anytime, anywhere, without any equipment! Being an easy activity that offers a wide range of benefits, it’s no wonder that we consider walking after eating part of living the #NewEarthLife. So go ahead, join us by lacing up your sneakers and heading out for a stroll the next time you put your fork down. Trust us, your digestive system (and the rest of your body) will thank you for it.
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