Why A Post-Meal Walk Is Great For Your Digestion–According to Science

post meal walk

Feeling a little full after that meal?

Have you ever wondered why you feel lethargic, a little tired, and occasionally bloated after a big meal? You may just want to move yourself to the couch, undo that top button and chill with some streaming for the rest of the night. Well, there are real reasons for that. But before you park it for the rest of the evening, consider getting up after eating for a post-meal walk. This simple, easy exercise will help you combat that tired feeling, and be beneficial to your health and digestion–according to science.

The Magical Benefits of Low-Impact Walking

Walking is categorized as a low-impact activity with movement that is fluid and easy on the joints, like swimming or yoga.1 Contrasted with high-impact exercise like running, the stress on joints like the knees is comparably less, and walking is an activity that can be done every day, possibly multiple times a day, depending on length and intensity†. It also requires no equipment beyond a decent pair of walking shoes, and can be done nearly anywhere, anytime (weather permitting).

Let’s take a look at the benefits of a regular post-meal walk and how it can help improve your digestion and overall health.

Promotes Digestion

The movement of your body as you walk helps with motility, or the ability of your digestive tract to move food through the digestive system at a normal pace. A recent study showed evidence of walking helping to stimulate digestion and decrease symptoms in a group of patients with IBS.2*

Occasional gas can also occur as you swallow air when eating and drinking. The primary muscles used when walking are the quadriceps and hamstrings. However, the core muscles also get worked as well when you are working the body in forward motion.3 Your core muscles work and help move that food through your digestive tract, and at the same time, this helps reduce occasional gas, bloating, and constipation.*  

Helps Regulate Healthy Blood Sugar

Remember that tired, lethargic feeling after a big meal? A big benefit of an after-dinner walk is that it may help regulate your blood sugar levels.* Going on a walk as soon as possible after eating has been shown to help keep blood sugar levels from spiking, which can happen 60-90 minutes after eating.4,5 It’s that spike that gives you the after-meal nap phenomenon. 

Boosts Metabolism

While it is not a huge calorie burner, walking is a good way to help support and boost your metabolism–essential for healthy weight maintenance. 

Adopting the after-meal walk as part of your exercise or movement regimen is a great place to start to promote a healthier metabolism. Building up your walking distance and intensity as time goes on will help you burn more calories, benefit your healthy weight management, increase your cardiovascular fitness, and even strengthen bones.6

Reduces Stress With Feel-Good Hormones

Unfortunately, stress–and specifically the stress hormone cortisol–is a leading cause of various digestive issues.7 When the “fight or flight” type response is triggered during periods of stress, digestion can slow down to a crawl, causing discomfort.8 

Your after-meal walk is a fantastic way to reduce stress and promote relaxation. Movement and exercise trigger the release of endorphins, those feel-good chemicals your body can produce naturally to give you that calm, happy, at-peace feeling. Think of how you feel after a particularly pleasurable activity, like dancing, a satisfying (hopefully healthy and not too filling) meal, sex, massage, a warm bath, etc. 

Your post-meal walk also helps release endorphins to relieve stress and improve your mood. Consider walking in a particularly beautiful place such as a park, beach, meadow, or tree-lined path if available. Walking in nature can also have an added calming effect on the body

Improves Sleep Quality

The benefits of this post-meal walk increase on multiple levels when we look at sleep. As covered above, walking can help boost and support your digestion, and reduce stress with endorphins and oxytocin. Which all in turn - bonus! - help you get better quality sleep. 

Studies show that exercise can help to improve sleep quality by decreasing the amount of time it takes for you to fall asleep, and increasing the amount of time you spend in deep sleep.9 More deep sleep time for you means more time where your body releases the growth hormone HGH, and works to repair bones, muscle, and tissues, and also regulates the immune system functions.10 Better quality sleep gives you a wealth of benefits that extend into better mood, digestion, immunity, clarity, cognition and more.

Have we convinced you yet? A post-meal walk has exponential benefits. Plus, low-impact, and easy to do nearly anywhere, any time, with no equipment. So, the next time you put that fork down, make a plan to get right up and take a stroll around the block, or the tree-lined path, or on the beach. Your metabolism, blood sugar, stress levels, sleep quality and digestion will thank you.

† Always consult your physician before beginning any new fitness regimen.


1 “High Impact vs. Low Impact Exercises”. (n.d.).

2 Hamaguchi, T., Tayama, J., Suzuki, M., et al. (2020). PLoS One, 15(12):e0244465.

3 “Walking - Muscles Used”. (n.d.).

4 Buffet, A.J., Herring, M.P., Langley, C.K., et al. (2022). Sports Medicine, 52, 1765–1787.

5 Erickson, M.L., Jenkins, N.T., McCully, K.K. (2017). Frontiers in Endocrinology, 8:228.

6 “Walking: Trim your waistline, improve your health”. Mayo Clinic Staff. (2021). Healthy Lifestyle, Fitness,

7  Illades, C. (2018). [Stress and digestion].

8 “Stress and the sensitive gut”. (2019). Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School,

9 Pacheco, D. (updated 2022). “Exercise and Insomnia”.

10 Pacheco, D. (updated 2023). “Deep Sleep: How Much Do You Need?”.