If you have constipation, exercise can help speed things up. According to experts, exercise does more than tone your heart and other muscles. Exercise is essential for regular bowel movements. In fact, one of the key things that leads to constipation is inactivity.
How Can Exercise Help Constipation?
Exercise helps constipation by lowering the time it takes food to move through the large intestine. This limits the amount of water your body absorbs from the stool. Hard, dry stools are harder to pass. Plus, aerobic exercise speeds up your breathing and heart rate. This helps to stimulate the natural squeezing (or contractions) of muscles in your intestines. Intestinal muscles that squeeze better will help move stools out quickly.
When Is the Best Time to Exercise?
Wait an hour after a big meal before doing any tough physical activity. After eating, blood flow increases to your stomach and intestines to help your body digest the food. If you exercise right after eating, blood flows away from your stomach and to your heart and muscles instead. Since the strength of your gut’s muscle contractions depends on how much blood it has, less blood in the GI tract means weaker contractions and the food will move sluggishly through your intestines. This can lead to bloating, gas, and constipation. So after a big meal, give your body a chance to digest it before you start on that nature hike.
What Are the Best Exercises for Constipation?
Simply getting up and moving can help constipation. A regular walking plan — even 10 to 15 minutes several times a day — can help the body and digestive system work at their best. If you are already fit, you might choose aerobic exercise: running, jogging, swimming, or swing dancing, for example. All of these exercises can help keep the digestive tract healthy. Stretching may also help ease constipation, and yoga may, too.
- National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse: “Constipation."
- American Academy of Family Physicians FamilyDoctor.org: “Digestive Basics."