Walking after Eating – Ancient Folk Wisdom, Modern Science

The Chinese language is full of folk sayings that most average people know, and many of these are related to health. One of my favorite Chinese folk sayings is, “Fan hou bai bu zou, huo dao jiu shi jiu” (飯後百步走,活到九十九). This translates to, “if you take 100 steps after each meal, you’ll live to 99.” Yes, it rhymes much better in Chinese! The idea is that taking a short walk after a meal is good for us.

Over the last few years researchers took a look at this idea to see if it was really a good health recommendation, since some people believe that walking after eating causes fatigue and stomach discomfort. It turns out that numerous studies found a measurably beneficial effect to the practice of walking after eating. One article published in 2009 looked at patients with type 2 diabetes (type 2 diabetics are those who do not yet need insulin) who walked after meals. They found that in these patients walking after eating had a beneficial effect on blood sugar numbers – better than if they had walked before eating, and better than if they hadn’t walked at all. Click here to see that study.

Another study published in 2013 found similar results, even in older patients who are otherwise inactive. This time researchers also discovered that three short 15 minute walks, one after each meal, was better than one long 45 minute walk during the day. Click here to see that study. In addition to blood sugar improvements with walking, walking improved digestion overall. There is also anecdotal information that has been published suggesting moderate weight loss with walking after meals.

With diabetes being one of the major health threats to older Americans today, and with the incidence of diabetes on the rise in all age groups, it would seem that the folk prescription of walking after meals is just what the doctor ordered. And it may actually help us all live to 99. Happy walking!