At this time of year, there are few things better than a frosty walk. It’s a tradition many enjoy, and in my family, it’s something we do (almost) every weekend after our roast. There’s something magical about pulling on wellies, hats and scarves and heading out to forget about the clearing up for a little while, plus the many benefits of walking after lunch mean I always feel better after some fresh air. That said, it’s not something I’d really consider doing during the week when I have seemingly a million things to do.

That said, it's safe to say that over the past year or so, walking workouts have been having a moment. Hot girl walks, walking desks and silent walking have all gone viral on TikTok, largely because, as well as being easy, free and accessible to all, walking increases fitness, boosts mental health, improves immune function and eases joint pain. 

The benefits of walking really are myriad, and there seems to be little the humble walk can't achieve. It's easily one of the simplest ways to feel fitter and healthier, and most of us can achieve at least a little walking every day. Not so sure? You’re probably already doing more than you realise.

But aside from the fitness benefits, as someone who has always struggled with bloating, cramps and discomfort after a big meal, I was interested to learn that there’s actually some science behind why walking after eating is such a good idea. As this 2019 study shows, a stroll post-eating can aid digestion and lower blood sugar levels, among other benefits.

Safe to say my interest was piqued. Would a daily walk after lunch ease my mid-afternoon energy slump, cravings and discomfort? I decided to try it for a week to find out. Read on to find out how I got on, along with some expert advice on how to walk your way to better health. And, if you’re really into it, read what happened when one MC UK writer tried walking every day for two weeks and an expert's guide to soft hiking, too. 

The benefits of walking after lunch are myriad - your guide 

What are the main benefits of walking after lunch?

First things first, why is walking after lunch so good for us? Well, a lot of the benefits lie in their ability to curb blood sugar spikes, says GP and registered nutritionist, Dr Sarah Cooke.

“Walking after eating - particularly meals rather than snacks - can help reduce blood sugar spikes, keeping them more stable throughout the day," she tells MC UK. “This is because we use our muscles when walking, which require more energy when exercising and, in turn, then take the glucose that causes blood sugar spikes away from your bloodstream and into the muscles.”

So far, so straightforward, but why is it good to have stable blood sugar, you might wonder? Here’s the science: when we eat a meal, our blood sugar levels will spike – usually temporarily, and dependant on what we’ve eaten. Also known as a post-prandial spike, this triggers our bodies to release insulin into the bloodstream, which we are then able to use for energy. However, if we consistently have raised glucose levels, we are at greater risk of developing conditions such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. 

Elevated blood sugar can also lead to inflammatory issues such as weight gain and acne. So, as a general rule – we want our blood sugar levels to remain as stable as possible.

This is where walking comes to the fore. According to studies, as little as ten minutes of walking after eating is enough to stabilise blood sugar levels – and even two minutes can make a difference.

How can walking after lunch benefit you?

If the evidence relating to blood sugars isn’t compelling enough, there are plenty of other reasons to lace up those trainers post-lunch, even if only for a quick walk around the block.

1. It’s a mood booster

If you’re prone to feeling sluggish and low mid-afternoon (and frankly, who isn’t?), a gentle stroll really can work wonders to clear the mind and re-energise us for a busy afternoon.

“If your mood is a bit low or you’re feeling tired, a short walk after a meal may help increase your energy levels and have a positive impact on your mental health,” explains registered nutritionist Dr Laura Wyness. “It’s also good to break up long periods of sitting with short bouts of movement like a short brisk walk to get those endorphins flowing.”

2. It's great for digestion

For me, this is the big one. “Gentle physical activity like walking after eating can help stimulate the stomach and intestines, facilitating smoother digestion,” explains specialist dietician Nichola Ludlam-Raine. “It can help food move through the stomach more efficiently, reducing the risk of indigestion and bloating.”

Conversely, though, intense exercise after a meal could lead to bloating, discomfort, nausea and indigestion – so don’t be tempted to overdo it.

3. It improves heart health

We all know that any kind of movement is good for our cardiovascular system, improving circulation and blood flow and ensuring our bodies run smoothly - and walking could be the holy grail of heart-healthy activities. Not only is it proven to manage blood pressure and cholesterol levels, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, but it also decreases our risk of all-cause mortality.

“Even light intensity physical activity is associated with a range of health benefits, including reducing the risk of obesity and all-cause mortality,” agrees Dr Wyness.

I tried walking after lunch every day for a week – here’s my thoughts

Days one to three

For starters, I was keen to find out how long I needed to set aside for my afternoon stroll. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that it really doesn’t need to take long - in other words, you don’t have to set aside hours of time to do it. “Studies show that doing several short bouts of exercise throughout the day, such as after each meal, may be more beneficial than one longer activity session,” says Dr Wyness reassuringly.

I decided to try a ten-minute walk for starters, as I’d heard that around ten to fifteen minutes is enough to confer the benefits discussed above – plus, it felt achievable with my hectic lifestyle. My experts agreed, with Dr Cooke telling me that a ten-minute walk after each meal is more specific and actionable than 30 minutes. "Ten minutes generally feels less overwhelming and achievable for people," she shares.

Timing decided, I set off. I'm not really expecting to notice much, if I’m honest. Luckily, I was blessed with dry (if freezing) weather, which certainly helped with the enjoyment factor. (I wouldn't have been so keen to don my trainers if it was lashing down outside). 

The first couple of days I’ll be honest, the walk felt a little like a chore to tick off my (never-ending) to-do list. But by day three, I was starting to relax into my new routine and I definitely noticed my mood shift as I pounded the pavements. I also found myself more focused and productive in the afternoons, too. Whether it was a placebo effect or not, I’m taking it as a win.

Did I notice any physical benefits? Well, it’s not easy to attribute a lack of cramping or bloating to any one particular factor, as for me, my digestive comfort depends on many factors, including what I’ve eaten, how stressed I am, my time of the month and how much sleep I’ve had, to mention a few. That said, I certainly found my symptoms were less noticeable than usual. I’d have to trial it for longer than a week (perhaps around a month) to be certain, but so far, so good.

Days four to seven

A few days in, I began to really look forward to my midday stroll – especially on the days when I barely came up for air in the morning. No matter how frantic I felt, I knew I had to go out for a while each day, over and above what I’d normally do. The tricky part was going soon enough after eating – I have a propensity to scroll mindlessly for a while after snacking (and I don’t think I’m alone!), so I found setting an alarm on my phone for five minutes’ after I’d finished served as a much-needed reminder to move.

As for my digestion, I barely had any discomfort after lunch in the week of the experiment. I did, however, struggle after eating dinner – so I’m tempted to try an evening stroll too, once the evenings get lighter again.

Will I continue to walk after lunch every day? Absolutely. It’s a no-brainer for me: not only was my mood boosted after a stroll, but I felt lighter and more positive every morning, just knowing that I had something to look forward to. My tip? While it’s tempting to habit stack and listen to a podcast etc while walking (and I totally endorse this), I felt the most mental health benefits on the days when I completely switched off, with nothing but the birdsong for company.

This little pocket of time and space in my day has become my non-negotiable – and I’m certain my body will thank me. Suffice to say, my little dog is very happy about it.

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Is it good to walk after lunch?

Short answer: yes, but it's important to leave yourself ten to twenty minutes to digest, too. Research has proven that moving after a meal can reduce blood sugar spikes says GP and registered nutritionist, Dr Sarah Cooke.

Why is this important? Well, consistent and repeated blood sugar spikes can lead to inflammation in the body, in turn causing both weight gain and acne. That's where walking comes in which, according to studies, can reduce the severity of blood sugar spikes after as little as two minutes. Aim for ten minutes, if you can though, as it's been seen to show best results.

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