5 Benefits of Taking a Walk After a Meal

Family of three walking in a neighborhood

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After a satisfying meal with family and friends, if a little voice inside tells you it’s time to head out for a stroll, you may want to listen. Not only is a walk after eating a pleasant way to enjoy social connection with others, it also offers surprising benefits for your health. From improved digestion to better blood sugar management, a lap around the block (or further) might just be the perfect finishing touch to a meal.

Read on for five reasons to take a walk after breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

May Improve Digestion

The internal nudge you may feel toward getting up and out after a meal might be coming from your gut. Research shows that post-meal movement can actually help you better digest your food.

In a 2014 meta-analysis of 20 studies, walking was associated with faster gastric emptying (the rate at which the body moves food through the stomach).

Other, more recent, research has shown that physical activity can improve the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). According to a 2020 study, the severity of gastrointestinal symptoms in younger people with IBS was lessened when they took more steps in their day. (However, it's unclear whether they walked immediately following a meal.)

Though some people may experience indigestion from working up a sweat after eating, overall, physical activity appears to have a protective effect on colon cancer risks, and possibly some other diseases in the GI tract. More research is still needed.

May Help Reduce Blood Sugar Levels

People with diabetes or other blood sugar issues could especially benefit from stepping out after mealtimes. A post-meal walk may help steady your blood glucose.

In a small 2013 study, older adults with pre-diabetes experienced better glycemic control from walking after meals than from merely taking a morning walk.

Another study yielded equivalent results, finding that people with type 2 diabetes had better blood sugar measures when they walked after meals, compared to a single daily walk. The most dramatic improvements occurred when walking after dinner. Sounds like good reason to take a quick stroll before settling into more sedentary activities for the evening!

May Help Regulate Blood Pressure

You've probably heard that exercise is a helpful means of lowering blood pressure. What you may not have heard is that timing brief walks throughout the day (such as after meals) could offer even more results for hypertension than one longer bout of exercise.

According to a 2016 study, the accumulated effects of 10-minute bouts of physical activity significantly brought down diastolic blood pressure in people with pre-hypertension.

Mealtimes can serve as a convenient trigger for working in these shorter bouts of light exercise.

May Reduce Heart Disease Risk

As you work to bring down your blood pressure with after-meal walks, you'll do your body the additional favor of lowering your risk of heart disease. People who keep their blood pressure within healthy limits have less incidence of cardiovascular disease and stroke.

Since 47% of Americans have high blood pressure (and only one in four has it under control), we'd all do well to squeeze in a stroll after mealtimes.

May Lessen Bloating

Whether you suffer with bloating as a result of occasional overeating, food sensitivities, or irritable bowel syndrome, a walk could be just the thing to tame a distended tummy.

As discussed above, research indicates that the more steps people with IBS get in a day, the less likely they may be to experience adverse symptoms, including bloating. And it's not just people with IBS who could calm belly bloating with a walk around the block. A four-week study from 2021 found that when people with non-IBS-related bloating went for a 10-15 minute walk after meals, they reported relief.

When bloating has you feeling uncomfortable after eating, consider a walk as quick, side effect-free treatment.

Other Considerations

Walking right after eating may not be right for everyone. For some people, hitting the pavement too soon after a meal (especially a large one) could cause problems, especially in the GI tract. People with acid reflux may want to be especially careful about the timing and intensity of exercise after eating. Research shows that highly intensive physical activity could predispose people with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) to an episode of heartburn (though lighter, shorter activity may not have this effect).

Similarly, getting too active too soon after eating could cause indigestion. The gastric emptying that walking induces might also cause unpleasant symptoms like nausea and stomach pain. When in doubt, take it slow—and don't hesitate to talk to a doctor before making a habit of walking after meals.

A Word from Verywell

If you’d like to incorporate a new healthy habit into your routine, walking after meals makes an excellent choice. This low-key form of activity comes with benefits for your heart, blood sugar, and digestive tract. Of course, if you have concerns about how post-meal walking might affect you, be sure to discuss them with a healthcare provider to get the all-clear before heading out for a stroll.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is walking after eating good for you?

    The research is clear: walking after eating is a healthy activity. Even a short walk after a meal could make a positive difference to your blood sugar, your blood pressure, your gut health, and more. Besides these physical benefits, you may also find that walking after dinner offers a relaxing way to wind down after the stresses of the day.

  • How does walking after eating impact weight management?

    Physical activity is an important component of any weight loss strategy, but the calorie-burning effects of walking don't appear to be amplified by lacing up just after eating. One case study found that walking just after a meal was more effective for weight loss than walking an hour after eating, but the sample size was only two participants. More research is needed to determine the relationship between weight loss and post-meal walking.

  • Is it OK to walk after eating a big meal?

    It’s generally fine to walk after a big meal. But if you’ve eaten to the point of being uncomfortably full, you may prefer to wait a little while before getting active. Some people may also experience indigestion, acid reflux, or nausea from walking immediately following a large meal. Listen to your body and let your own sense of well-being be your guide.

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11 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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