Skip to content

Heartburn/GERD Health Center

Workouts Without Heartburn

Tired of feeling the burn -- heartburn -- when you exercise? Try these 7 tips for heartburn relief.
Font Size
A
A
A
By
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

Understanding Heartburn: Treatment

Your health care provider may suggest antacids for occasional heartburn. Sometimes, more potent medications such as H2 blockers and proton pump inhibitors may be needed, especially for persistent symptoms. Both prescription and over-the-counter choices are available. Rarely, surgery is recommended to prevent reflux and heartburn. The primary objective of treatment is to identify the cause of the heartburn so it can be avoided in the future. Over-the-counter antacids are commonly used to neutralize...

Read the Understanding Heartburn: Treatment 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
Slideshow
Heartburn or Heart Attack
Article
 
heartburn
Article
Top 10 Heartburn Foods
Video
 
Is it Heartburn or Gerd
Video
digestive myths
Slideshow
 
Extreme Eats
Slideshow
graphic of esophageal area
Article