After-dinner walking is popular, but did you know that walking after dinner can help to lower your blood sugar, burn calories, and help you sleep better? It might seem natural to plop down on the couch after a long day at work and a hearty dinner, but why not get some steps instead? You know how beneficial walking is for your body, but it’s doubly beneficial if you’re swapping out time that you would be sedentary with time getting active. Walking after dinner helps you feel happier, get more steps towards your goal, and be more productive with your time.
Learn more about the science behind walking after eating, plus how you can use it strategically to get more steps in your day.
If you haven’t downloaded the Pacer app yet, download Pacer for free (on mobile)!
Great Reasons to Walk After a Meal
Walking improves digestion
When you sit or lie down after a meal, your stomach has a harder time moving food through the digestive tract. The food stays longer in your stomach, which often results in heartburn or acid reflux. This digestive discomfort results from stomach acids going up towards the esophagus. With better digestion, those stomach acids get put to use faster, which means they generally stay where they belong. The movement involved in walking helps quickly move food through your digestive system. It also activates the digestive juices that help your body absorb the good nutrients from your food.
Walking can stabilize blood glucose levels
People with diabetes or those experiencing early symptoms of diabetes may experience spikes in their blood sugar after eating a meal. Going for a walk uses up energy, which lowers the glucose levels in the blood.
Walking is often recommended for diabetic patients, as exercise and weight loss can help manage diabetes. Research has found that walking after meals, in particular, may be more beneficial to diabetics than a single walk during the day. The effect was greatest after dinner, when a high amount of carbohydrates are generally eaten. If you’re taking several short walks during the day, take one after dinner!
Your dinner can motivate you to walk
If you’re walking for weight loss, you know that getting active can help you lose weight. Walking after dinner can be particularly helpful for two reasons. One, many people tend to rest, watch TV, or do some other sedentary activity after eating. If you’ve eaten a large meal, you may feel tired and just want to relax. After dinner is an ideal walking time, however, and replacing even 30 minutes of TV time with a walk can make a big difference in health. If all you can do is a short 10-minute walk, that’s fine too. The more unproductive time you can swap with walks, the better.
Walking after dinner can help with weight management in an unexpected way as well! You’re less likely to eat a huge, heavy meal if you know you’ve planned to walk after eating. This can help you both control portion sizes and make some healthy, simple food swaps that can make your dinner more nutritious. You can also try saving a portion of dinner for after your walk. You may find that when you get back, you’re not even hungry anymore.
Walking decreases stress
Work can be stressful, and when you get home and you’re getting ready for dinner you may feel particularly stressed or down. Stress-eating is a big problem for many people, leading them to eat way more than they otherwise would. By eating reasonable portions and then taking a walk, you can improve your mood and decrease negative feelings. Even if you still eat a normal dinner, a walk can relieve stress, help you feel great and avoid falling into dessert or late-night snacking.
Another interesting note is that stress levels can increase when you feel full. When you’re full, you may experience a tight feeling in your chest that is uncomfortable and makes relaxing difficult. Walking after your meal improves digestion, which reduces that tightness and the accompanying stress. This can help you feel better in general, sleep better, and again avoid late-night snacking.
Benefits of Walking after Your Evening Meal
We’ve seen that walking after meals is great, but why walk after dinner specifically? There are some good reasons why taking a stroll after your evening meal is particularly beneficial.
Fill the after-dinner void
The after-dinner time is traditionally a time to sit on the couch and do little to nothing. If you have spent quite a bit of your day sitting down, take this opportunity to get out and walk. Be productive with your time! A 15-30 minute walk can go a long way towards your 10,000 step goal (or any goal!). A recent study showed that sitting for 9.5 hours a day or more was linked to an increased risk of death. If you just sat for 8+ hours at work, try not to add another 2 hours sitting when you get home. Get out and get active!
While you are walking, you can think about what you accomplished during the day, and you can consider what’s on the schedule for tomorrow. You will feel more prepared for the next day, which will leave you with fewer jitters at bedtime.
Connect with others
Walking doesn’t have to be a solitary activity. Get out with your family after you eat dinner. This is a great opportunity to extend any dinner-table conversations and better connect with the people you love.
Get steps if you’re not a morning person
Do you feel discouraged when you hear of people taking long walks at the crack of dawn? We still think morning walking is a great way to get your steps, but if you find it difficult then the evening is a great option. Walking should be fun so that you’ll want to walk more and more. If you’ve tried these morning walking tips and still can’t make it happen, plan for a walk when you’re in a better mood.
You’ll sleep better
Once you’re finished eating dinner, sleep can’t be too far away. A good walk helps burn calories and improve your digestive process, which in turn helps your body get ready for a good night’s sleep. When you sleep soundly, your body recharges and you end up feeling great in the morning! If nothing else, walking can help prevent you from staring at your computer or TV screen. The light from screens has been shown to disrupt sleep patterns.
Tips for Safe Nighttime Walking
When you’re walking in the dark or in the twilight, you need to take some extra safety precautions. You can read our night walking piece for a more detailed look.
- Be visible: Wear light-colored clothing, easily visible clothing so people in vehicles can see you better. Reflective gear is a good option.
- Walk against traffic: Walk on the side of the road so that you’re walking the opposite direction as the flow of traffic. This allows you to see cars coming ahead of time and move further away from the road if necessary.
- Be aware: Don’t wear headphones or get distracted looking at your phone while walking at night. This is especially important to help you avoid cars that you might not see and to allow you to be aware of suspicious people.
- Beware of obstacles: Try to walk on a flat, well-lit route free of obstacles like tree roots, cracked pavement or other obstructions.
- Choose a familiar path: You’re better off following a path you’ve walked before when walking at night. That way, you’ll know the path is well lit, safe and free of obstructions. Sometimes online maps don’t account for missing sidewalks or other features of your route, and you don’t want to end up on an unsafe stretch of road at night.
- Walk together: Walk along a well-lit path with other people nearby. Walking with a friend at night can also help you walk more safely.
- Tell someone: Make sure you tell someone where you plan to walk just in case. You can use Pacer’s Live Tracking function to share your location with friends or loved sones for additional peace of mind.
Be safe, stay active, and enjoy your post-dinner walk! It’s a great way to wrap up your day.
If you haven’t downloaded the Pacer app yet, download Pacer for free (on mobile)! You can also check out our website (mobile or desktop) or follow our blog for more great walking and healthy lifestyle tips.