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Exercise to Ease Constipation

If your bowel habits are sluggish and you suffer constipation, maybe some 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 risk factors for constipation is inactivity.

How Can Exercise Help Constipation?

Exercise helps constipation by decreasing the time it takes food to move through the large intestine, thus limiting the amount of water absorbed from the stool into the body. Hard, dry stools are harder to pass. In addition, aerobic exercise accelerates your breathing and heart rate. This helps to stimulate the natural contraction of intestinal muscles. Intestinal muscles that contract efficiently help move stools out quickly.

When Is the Best Time to Exercise?

Wait an hour after a big meal before engaging in any rigorous physical activity. After eating, blood flow increases to the stomach and intestines to help the body digest the food. However, if you exercise right after eating, the blood flows toward the heart and muscles instead. Since the strength of the gut's muscle contractions directly relate to the quantity of blood flowing in the area, less blood in the GI tract means weaker intestinal contractions, fewer digestive enzymes, and the food waste moving sluggishly through the intestine. This can lead to bloating, excess 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 regimen -- even 10 to 15 minutes several times a day -- can help the body and digestive system function optimally. If you are already fit, you might opt for aerobic exercise: running, jogging, swimming, or swing dancing, for example. All these exercises can help keep the digestive tract healthy. Stretching may also help alleviate constipation, as might certain yoga positions.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by William Blahd, MD on April 15, 2015

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