Walking after eating: 5 reasons why it's so good for you

Personal trainer and nutritional advisor reveals why walking after eating is so beneficial, for everything from sleeping better to losing weight

Woman walking after eating across the road, looking at mobile phone in hand
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Walking after eating may sound like the last thing you want to do when you're feeling full but all the rumors are true. There are so many benefits to going for a stroll after a meal, from better digestion to mood improvements and more. 

We all know that movement of any kind is good for us. It helps keep our cardiovascular system, bones, and joints healthy, our brains at their best, and ultimately, our bodies and minds moving. And going for a walk after eating will help contribute to all these things - but it also has own underappreciated benefits as well. 

There's no need to take up walking as a workout or go for a hike after dinner though, simply going for a wander around your local area is good enough. So, what else do you need to know? Here, we speak to a personal trainer and nutrition expert to reveal why walking after eating is so beneficial, how long to go for, and why. 

Benefits of walking after eating

1. Helps digestion

The first major benefit of walking after eating is the impact it has on our digestive systems, says personal trainer Emma Bord, who also specializes in offering nutritional advice and information. "Moving around can aid digestion by stimulating the stomach and intestines, causing food to move more rapidly through the body," she explains. "In turn, this can reduce indigestion, heartburn and constipation."

It's particularly beneficial for those who experience gas and bloating after eating, she adds, as "moving can reduce this by encouraging the passage of food as well as breaking down and absorbing nutrients."

Woman walking through green grass with dog, smiling

(Image credit: Getty Images)

2. Walking after dinner helps with weight loss

When it comes to losing weight without dieting excessively, your non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) activity is so important. As the Mayo Clinic explains, this is movement such as walking to work, gardening, taking the dog for a walk, anything that's not explicit sports-like exercise. And it's doing these types of movement that burns the most calories, second only to the calories we burn through our metabolism. Walking after eating comes in as part of this. 

If you're trying to lose weight, burning calories is important as to get into a calorie deficit for weight loss, you need to be burning more calories through NEAT, your metabolism (otherwise known as your basal metabolic rate), and exercise, than you eat every day. 

3. Regulates blood sugar levels

This is particularly beneficial for those with type one and two diabetes, but everyone can experience the benefits. 

"Walking after meals can regular blood sugar levels because exercising after a meal can reduce a spike in blood sugar," she explains. "This spike automatically happens after eating carbohydrates, as they get broken down into sugar. A short post-walk meal can, in turn, decrease blood sugars and keep levels under control." 

4. Decreases stress

The benefits of walking for our mental health are almost as well-known as the physical ones. Many of us eat distracted at our desks while working from home, in front of the television, or even on the move, thanks to the time-pressure and stress we feel in our daily lives. 

While for the same reasons it won't be possible for most people to take a walk after every meal, the stress-relieving benefits it can offer are immense. The University of Mississippi, for instance, discovered that both 10-minutes of brisk walking and meditation both improved mood state and lowered participants' stress levels. 

Want to give it a go? Try walking meditation, or if you have a little more time, soft hiking. Both are hugely popular ways to connect with nature, lower stress levels, and enjoy the great outdoors even for a limited time.

5. Improves mood

Getting out in nature and breathing in the fresh air can do wonders for our minds. But even in the shorter term, a walk is good exercise outside that can have a hugely positive effect on our mood. 

"Getting the body going post meal can absolutely produce endorphins, the feel good hormone, energizing the mind, body and soul," says Bord. "In addition, the movement also releases serotonin, which has multiple benefits, including promoting good sleep and increasing positive feelings." 

Woman standing up and walking over to her desk in the office after eating, carrying mug

(Image credit: Getty Images)

How long should you walk for after a meal? 

Walking for as little as 15 minutes after a meal can contribute to lowering blood sugar levels naturally, boosting digestion, and aiding weight loss, says the personal trainer. It's also a good amount to aim for as it's achievable, she says, "and therefore more motivational than a longer walk, which may feel more challenging physically but also the pressure of time."

It's also all the time you'd need to clear your head, if you're looking for another reason to go for a walk after a meal. "Taking 15 minutes post-eating for yourself can also help reframe the mind, recharge the batteries and clear the head, which could work wonders for sleep," she says. 

But this is a hot debate. With plenty of studies done on walking, almost every researcher has a different answer. For example, researchers from the University of Limerick reviewed several studies looking at the effects of sitting versus standing or walking on participants' heart health, including their insulin and blood sugar levels. They found that walking after a meal, for as little as two to five minutes, can have a significant impact on blood sugar levels.

While a study by the University of Rome looked at the effects of going for a walk postprandial (that's after lunch or dinner to you and me), and found that walking for 30 minutes after the meals stabilized sugar levels in the hours afterward.

So, there's really no one straight answer. As Bord suggests, any amount of time walking will be beneficial after a meal, so head out for as long as you can given the constraints of the day and your personal fitness levels.

How long should you wait to walk after eating?

It's recommended to wait for about 15 to 60 minutes after you put your knife and fork down before you go for a walk. "This is because it's at this time that blood sugar levels tend to peak," explains Bord. "A light walk at this time will help the muscles absorb extra glucose from the meal, regulating sugar levels at the same time as aiding digestion." 

Do you have to walk outside? 

No, it's not essential to go for a walk outside to experience the benefits of walking after eating. In an ideal world, we'd all have time to take a walk outside after eating but that's not possible for everyone. 

Luckily, if you're super short on time, you don't even need to really walk to experience the digestive advantages. Simply standing immediately after eating can offer some of the same benefits. 

The one thing numerous studies warn against though is lying down after eating. A study by the University of Utah suggests that those who do this after eating digested food up to 102% slower than those who stand and move around. While scientists aren't entirely sure why this is, they think it's all to do with gravity. 

Grace Walsh
Health Channel Editor

Grace Walsh is woman&home's Health Channel Editor, working across the areas of fitness, nutrition, sleep, mental health, relationships, and sex. She is also a qualified fitness instructor. In 2024, she will be taking on her second marathon in Rome, cycling from Manchester to London (350km) for charity, and qualifying as a certified personal trainer and nutrition coach. 

A digital journalist with over six years experience as a writer and editor for UK publications, Grace has covered (almost) everything in the world of health and wellbeing with bylines in Cosmopolitan, Red, The i Paper, GoodtoKnow, and more.