The mental and physical benefits of a night walk
It’s tempting to slouch on the couch after dinner, when your stomach is full and you’re exhausted from the daily grind. But instead of mindlessly scrolling through your phone or watching TV, it’s worth lacing up your shoes and going for a walk.
This is what the English writer Annabel Streets, author of 52 ways to walk, believes. While Annabel notes that Australians seem more of a bunch of “morning walkers”, she says the culture of evening walks is alive and well in the Mediterranean.
On a recent visit to Greece, she was delighted to see crowds of people moving about at dusk. “You go out and everyone walks around,” she says. “They’ll do this for an hour, two hours, sometimes three hours.”
The Italians have a name for this beautiful languorous stroll: the passeggiata. It’s a tradition they partake in in the late afternoon or early evening and it’s a social event where friends and family get together to chew the fat and enjoy their surroundings.
For the past five years, Annabel has herself largely adopted this Mediterranean attitude, taking walks almost every evening after dinner. It’s not a long or strenuous activity, ranging from a 10-minute meander to a leisurely half-hour stroll.
No matter how long she walks, Streets says there are plenty of benefits. First of all, it’s good for you physically. In her book, she cites a study from the journal Intestine who found that the “transit time” of food passing through the gastrointestinal system was dramatically accelerated by moderate exercise.
“In other words,” she writes, “exercise helps keep everything moving, thereby reducing our risk of constipation.”
Walking after dinner also helps stop binges. “Instead of sitting at the table and just picking, picking, picking, or refilling your glass of wine, it saves you from overeating and overdrinking,” she says.