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An Expert Explains Exactly How a Walk Can Help You Manage Hangover Symptoms

A hangover—with its tell-tale headache, fatigue, and general malaise—can feel like a cloud of ickiness sent to ruin your good time. But the Mayo Clinic defines it as a collection of symptoms that occur after consuming a little too much alcohol. While almost everyone has their unique post-drinking remedy, Stephen Clark, DPT, OCS, ATC, physical therapist and clinic director at Confluent Health, says walking can help your hangover quite a bit.Does the thought of pushing yourself out of bed, lacing up your sneakers, and heading onto the street make you nauseous? As long as you’re not camped out in your bathroom, on the verge of throwing up, the recommendation is pretty sound. Moving your limbs activates your lymphatic system, a network of organs, tissues, and vessels that transport lymphatic fluid (or lymph) throughout the body. The system also helps regulate fluids in your body—something alcohol consumption frequently disrupts.

The lymphatic system is quite complex, but for the purposes of helping your hangover, the anatomy is pretty simple: Lymph is filled with proteins and disease-fighting cells that help the body eliminate waste, excess fluid, and damaged cells, according to the Cleveland Clinic. When you’re dealing with foreign bodies (like bacteria, viruses, and cancer cells), your immune system fights back by moving lymph through small bean-shaped glands throughout your body, called lymph nodes, that cleanse the lymph and eliminate infection, Cleveland Clinic says.

Drinking alcohol causes your blood vessels to expand (which the Mayo Clinic lists as a likely cause of headaches), and this expansion “increases the flow of lymph and the amount of fluid accumulating in your body’s tissues,” Dr. Clark says. This gives your lymphatic system more work to do and essentially puts extra stress on your body. “The lymphatic system is responsible for clearing out that excess fluid,” Dr. Clark explains. Exercise is the easiest way to stimulate the processing of lymph fluid, Dr. Clark says, adding that it can help alleviate hangover symptoms like headache and water retention.

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