Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Heartburn/GERD Health Center

Font Size

Workouts Without Heartburn

Tired of feeling the burn -- heartburn -- when you exercise? Try these 7 tips for heartburn relief.
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Venkat Mohan, MD

In many people, moderate exercise -- and the accompanying healthy weight -- can be a good way to keep GERD symptoms at bay. But, for some people, especially athletes with intense fitness regimens, a good workout can have an unpleasant side effect: acid reflux. Here are some tips on how to get fit without the heartburn.

Recommended Related to Heartburn/GERD

Heartburn 101

There was a time when it didn’t take much to set off Sara Perlman-Smith’s heartburn. Spicy foods, alcohol, even a foul mood could send a burning wave rushing up her throat. "I could feel the acid in my esophagus," she recalls. "It was just a consistent burning pain in my chest." Then there was the constant burping. "A lot of times that would make me feel a little better," says Perlman-Smith, 38, a stay-at-home mom in Hallsville, Mo. "But a lot of the time if it was a really bad episode, I’d just...

Read the Heartburn 101 article > >

  • Don't exercise within two hours of eating. If you have a full stomach, the pressure on your sphincter -- the ring of muscle between the esophagus and stomach -- can lead to acid reflux.

  • Eat sensibly before you exercise. In general, avoid foods that increase the risk of acid reflux, like chocolate, citrus juices, caffeinated drinks, and spicy or fatty foods. The National Heartburn Alliance recommends that, before a workout, you opt for foods low in protein and fat and high in carbohydrates.

  • Drink water. During your workout, drink lots of water. It will keep you hydrated and help with digestion.

  • Take chest pain seriously. "Unfortunately, the pain of heartburn is absolutely indistinguishable from pain caused by heart problems," says David Carr-Locke, MD, director of endoscopy at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. "The same nerves are affected." So play it safe: get any chest pain checked out by your doctor.

  • Take your medicine. If you consistently have heartburn when you exercise, take medicine beforehand. J. Patrick Waring, MD, a gastroenterologist at Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta, recommends an over-the-counter H2 blocker, (such as Axid, Pepcid, Tagamet, or Zantac.) If your symptoms are more severe, you may need a prescription from your health care provider.

  • Consider less intense activities. "Any activity that causes a lot of bouncing or jiggling is likely to increase your risk of GERD symptoms," says Lawrence J. Cheskin, MD, associate professor at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. He says that calmer activities -- like walking -- are less likely to cause problems.

  • But most importantly -- keep exercising. While exercise can bring on heartburn in some people, Cheskin makes clear that it's better to exercise regularly and have acid reflux than to live a symptom-free life spent lazing on the couch.

    "Exercise has so many benefits," Cheskin tells WebMD. "The last thing I'd want is for people to stop exercising. I'd rather that people have heartburn -- which we can control with medicine -- than a heart attack."

So if you have heartburn when you exercise, talk to your doctor. While modifying your workout might make sense, Cheskin says you could be better off taking medicine for GERD and keeping your fitness regimen as is.

Reviewed on September 01, 2006

Today on WebMD

Woman eating pizza
How it starts, and how to stop it.
man with indigestion
Get lifestyle and diet tips.
woman shopping for heartburn relief
Medication options.
man with heartburn
Symptoms of both.
digestive health
Heartburn or Heart Attack
Top 10 Heartburn Foods
Is it Heartburn or Gerd
digestive myths
Extreme Eats
graphic of esophageal area