This week, I ate a three-course dinner that put me into a carb-induced stupor. The bowl of noodles was delicious, but when I got up from our table, I immediately wanted to take a nap. But instead of following my first impulse to sit down and take a car home, I walked the long way home. When I reached my destination twenty minutes later, I felt noticeably better and lighter.
I am not alone in making the case for the post-dinner walk. Science backs me up.
How a walk after dinner aids digestion
After we stuff our bodies with food, our body’s digestion system kicks into action mode, converting that food into sugar glucose. Walking helps to speed that process along, because our leg muscles require some of that glucose to get the energy to move. One 2008 study found that even a leisurely walk on a treadmill had the power to accelerate the rate of food passing through the stomach. The participants who finished their large meal with an espresso or a brandy digestif did not get this same digestive boost.
Walking also helps to regulate our blood sugar levels. After a bread-heavy meal, sugar floods our bloodstream, which can cause blood sugar levels to spike. When your blood sugar levels are too high, you can get a headache, and can feel dizzy, confused or nauseous. People with diabetes lack the insulin to easily clear the glucose from their bloodstream, which means that blood sugar levels can stay elevated for too long. That’s where a walk can help. One 2016 study found that 10 minutes of walking after a meal helped to control the blood sugar levels of people with type-2 diabetes.
So, if you are feeling sleepy and bloated after a big meal, get up from the table and get moving. Your body will thank you later.