The season of indulgence is upon us. No matter how disciplined you are, Thanksgiving and the December holidays are synonymous with endless temptation and shake us from usual wellness routines. And it’s all good! Enjoying the fall harvest with family and friends is balanced and healthy—of course, if you’re human, chances are the pumpkin pie (or insert your favorite holiday food here) will get the best of you at least once. You know the feeling. You’re already entirely full, but a homemade pie makes its way onto the table and you simply can’t resist.
So you indulge. Good for you! If you’re in good health, indulgence and non-restriction are parts of living a balanced life. But there’s one thing that can help everyone recover—a simple 30-minute walk.
The benefits of walking after eating a meal.
Staying put or napping after you eat is probably the worst thing you can do, according to a study by the International Journal of Obesity published earlier this year—the research linked more time sitting (and less movement) with cardiovascular disease and larger waist circumferences.
And as for that digestif? Sure, have it, but only after you’ve taken a walk. Walking outperforms boozy cocktails and espresso, ones that purport to stimulate the stomach, as a study published in the Journal of Gastrointestinal and Liver Diseases published in 2008, when it comes to digestion efficacy. Walking helped food along through the digestive system while the beverages had no effect on digestion.
In order to get the most out of your walk, doing it directly after your meal versus even one hour later prompts more weight loss, suggesting that there’s some mechanism that helps the body better digest.
It’s probably because of the blood-sugar-balancing effects of walking. This study published in the American Diabetes Association’s journal Diabetes Care compared blood sugar levels of people who walked 45 minutes in the morning and others who walked 15 minutes after meals and found that the latter resulted in significantly improved blood sugar levels. Another study published in 2009 in Applied Physiology, Metabolism, and Nutrition saw similar results when testing the effects of postprandial walking in middle-aged women.
Taking the research into account, you’d ideally walk for at least 30 minutes directly after the meal. The dishes can wait—make it a family affair or steal some alone time if you need it, but walking is a surefire way to feel lighter and more energized after a heavy meal.