When you’re battling constipation and having trouble getting things moving, one of the best solutions may be to literally get moving. A study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology found that exercise can improve constipation symptoms. Studies have even linked regular exercise to significant relief from irritable bowel syndrome symptoms, including constipation.
After all, it’s important to note that while a single bout of exercise may or may not trigger an immediate urge to have a bowel movement, the digestive benefits of exercise are the greatest in the long run.
So how does it work?
Basically, regular exercise reduces the time it takes for food to pass through the digestive tract. This reduction in transit time means the body has fewer opportunities to absorb water from the stool during the digestion process. In other words, moist stools pass more easily than hard, dry stools. The exact mechanisms by which exercise activates intestinal motility (the movement of food through the body) are not fully understood. They are believed to occur through mechanical and chemical pathways. Mechanical mechanisms include physical pressure on the intestines and their twisting, as well as changes in blood flow to the intestines. The chemical mechanisms include the release of hormones and the increase in digestive enzymes.
However, to get the greatest digestive benefits from exercise, the choice of exercise is important.
Here are four exercises that have significant benefits for relieving constipation and how to use them to improve bowel movement.
Running often stimulates bowel movements during or immediately after a strenuous run. The mechanism at play here is thought to be ischemia, or a lack of blood supply, to the large intestine. It’s true that regular exercise improves blood flow to the intestines, which contributes to better long-term digestive health, but during intense, all-out exercise like running, the body diverts blood from the system. digestive to working muscles. Additionally, running, by its high-impact nature, literally jostles the intestines, which can stimulate contractions. The secretion of specialized hormones and digestive enzymes in the gastrointestinal tract can further increase motility.
For competitive runners, these short-term effects on the intestines can accelerate intestinal motility to the point of causing diarrhea. However, for those who struggle with constipation, running slower than the usual running pace can promote bowel regularity. If you’re new to running, try to start with short, low-intensity jogs, then gradually increase the duration and intensity of your run based on how your muscles and gut are feeling. . It’s also important to stay hydrated, especially when doing high-intensity exercise, as it can reduce constipation.
2. Light Cardio
You don’t need to push the intensity of the exercise to promote bowel movement. Light cardio can also promote regularity. Try walks or bike rides to slightly increase heart rate and stimulate the gastrointestinal tract without causing blood flow to shift dramatically out of the intestines like high-intensity running and high impact. Get 150 minutes of light aerobic activity per week to start. These minutes do not have to consist of a structured exercise. Activities such as gardening, active travel, and household chores are all good for your health and digestive health.
3. Core exercises
Core muscles form a housing unit for your body’s organs, including the gastrointestinal system. According to Harvard Medical School, the strength and function of the core muscles, including the abdominals and obliques, play a crucial role in gastrointestinal motility. Their contractions increase pressure throughout the abdominal cavity to help physically push things through, and the stronger these muscles are, the more their contractions can aid digestion. Mechanical stress from bending and twisting the torso also increases pressure on the intestines. Try to incorporate core work into your workouts at least three times a week. Planks can trigger an increase in intra-abdominal pressure due to muscle contraction, and abs are likely to further stimulate the bowels.
Yoga is a unique exercise for constipation because it affects blood flow to the intestines. Since it involves strengthening, bending and twisting the trunk, this exercise also emphasizes the use of the parasympathetic nervous system. Called for good reason the “rest and digest” system, the parasympathetic nervous system is strongly activated by yoga through yoga poses and calming breathing exercises. By reducing activation of the fight or flight nervous system and instead focusing on rest and relaxation, the body is automatically primed for better digestion. Research suggests that yoga postures may be particularly beneficial for relieving constipation in patients with irritable bowel syndrome, as this gastrointestinal disorder is strongly linked to stress, anxiety, and depression. Some specific yoga poses that can help reduce constipation include the twisted back, cobra, and child’s pose.