As a fan of walking for health, I often use walking as a workout, and therefore, the healthy thing to do is eat after my bigger walks.
However, I also look at it the other way around and I use walking as the healthy thing to do after my bigger meals. Eating too much or bad foods at breakfast can lead to my stomach having an uncomfortable morning, the same at lunch but it also usually makes me want a nap as well and, at dinner, it can lead to a night of low-quality sleep. Personally, I have effectively combatted these negative side effects by taking a brief walk shortly after a big meal. I have never had digestive issues when I have done this and it turns out I am not alone.
In this article, I ask how does walking aid digestion and how can you can use walking to your advantage when focussing on your health. Why not check out this article on why walking is good for your health.
How Digestion Works
We eat, our body pushes it through our stomach and eventually, we go to the bathroom, right? Wrong! well not wrong, that is what happens but there is a little more to it.
When we eat, we start digesting our food in the mouth before continuing in the esophagus on its way to the stomach. While in the stomach, your body will secrete juices to breakdown the food before it is pushed into the small intestine where the majority of nutrients are absorbed into the body. The food is then ready to be exiled as waste material known more commonly as poop.
While the whole digestive process is important, digestive discomfort is usually caused due to what happens in the stomach. It is the enzymes and gastric acid from your stomach wall which breaks down the food into a liquid that the small intestines are capable of absorbing nutrients from. This is the process we are going to be helping by leveraging walking.
Two common causes of digestive problems in otherwise healthy adults are if we eat so much that our stomach is too full or if we drink to much so there is too much liquid in the stomach diluting your gastric acid.
Top Tip: it is important you stay hydrated but you should try not to drink 45 minutes before a meal or if you must, take smaller sips until well after your meal has settled.
How Walking Helps Digestion
By the time the food is settled in the stomach, you will already be secreting the juices to break it down. If you are too full, however, your stomach will have a difficult time churning your stomach juices into the food slowing down the process.
If this happens you may feel bloated because there is too much food or because your gastrointestinal motility is hindered.
Walking helps you churn the contents of your stomach so the enzymes and gastric acid can work their magic and the motility process can continue.
Did you know?: The gastric acids in your stomach contains hydrochloric acid – which is highly corrosive to human flesh.
Even if you do not feel bloated, you can still take a walk to aid your digestion process.
When To Walk
In some places, it is customary to take a shot of strong alcohol after a meal to aid the digestive process. However, this study published in 2008 highlights that alcoholic beverages have no effect on the digestive process when consumed shortly after a meal but that walking slowly on the treadmill after a meal significantly sped up the process.
In my personal experience, the time you should walk is about 15 minutes after your meal, I walk for about 15 minutes without exerting much effort. The study states that the group who walked were given 40ml of water… I do not specifically drink water after my meal but I generally am quite good at ensuring I am hydrated so keep that in mind.
Help Prevent Diabetes While We Are At It
This article is about how walking can aid digestion but I am throwing in this freebie. I say freebie because if you are sold on the benefits of walking after each meal to aid digestion, then without doing anything else, you could also be helping to prevent diabetes.
Studies published in 2009 and 2013 compared 15 minutes of walking after each meal to the equivalent amount of walking at different times of the day and the results were both in favour of postprandial (after eating) walking.
The 2009 study concluded that walking after a meal was more effective for lowering blood sugar spikes than walking before each meal while the 2013 study concluded that 15 minutes of walking after 3 meals a day was better than 45 minutes of walking all in one go.
While both of these studies were aimed at people living with diabetes, If you effectively manage your blood sugar you can help lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life
Walking Wins Again
How walking can help digestion is a topic I found fascinating. Hopefully, this article has helped you understand how to use walking to hack your digestive cycle while also highlighting other potential life-saving benefits of a post-meal stroll. Walking truly is amazing.