Benefits of an Evening Walk

Benefits of an Evening Walk

[excerpt from Why Walk: The Transformative Power of an Intentional Walking Practice by Joyce Shulman]

Does anyone else's evening routine go something like this? Eat dinner. Wash dishes. Straighten up kitchen. Get coffee ready to brew in the morning. Settle onto the couch (or bed) with a book or television show. 

This is not ideal. Not at all ideal.

Better would be taking the advice of my grandmother and heading out for an after-dinner walk because, though she certainly didn’t have the science to understand it, her instincts were right: an after-dinner walk can have profound, positive impact on our minds, moods, and bodies.

First, after-dinner walks taken with family members provide a perfect time to catch up and connect. As we know, walking together is valuable for relationships and, while it doesn't matter when you walk together, after dinner presents an opportune time for many. For young kids, an evening walk can help create a lifelong habit. For teenagers, an after-dinner walk can help them power through evening homework. 

Second, an after-dinner walk can help promote digestion by helping to keep things moving through your digestive tract. Research suggests that a post-meal walk helps to speed up the emptying of your stomach and can reduce bloating. This is not the case with everyone, nor with every meal – whether an after-dinner walk feels good or bad can depend on how much you’ve eaten, what you’ve eaten, and how your unique body processes food. Once you develop the after-dinner walk routine, you will begin to recognize what meals walk well and what meals don’t. Chances are that you’ll discover that meals that are higher in vegetables, lean proteins, and good grains walk a whole lot better than a plate of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and gravy. 

Third, and perhaps most importantly for your body, is the impact a walk after a meal can have on your blood sugar levels. After a meal, your blood sugar levels typically rise as your body gets to work converting food to energy. This is a normal bodily function, however, larger blood sugar spikes can contribute to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and other not-so-good-for-you diseases and disorders. Helping our bodies better process the food we take in and keep those blood sugar levels steadier helps to avoid these diseases and disorders. Several studies have shown that a post-meal walk of merely 15 or 20 minutes helps.

Finally, for many people, an after-dinner walk helps to improve sleep. Whether this is because walking reduces your stress, boosts your mood, improves digestion, helps you process the emotions of the day or something else, you are likely to find that a leisurely evening walk helps you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. Now note … this is not the case for everyone. For some people, that evening walk especially if it is taken too close to bedtime can make it more difficult to fall asleep so experiment and see what works best for you.

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