3 Ways Exercise Helps Keep You Regular

By Craig McFarlane

Clients commonly ask, “Can exercise help with regular bowel movements?” and, “Can exercise help with constipation?”

The answer to both of these questions is yes. Exercise, among other lifestyle and dietary factors, plays an important role in making sure your digestive tract is efficient.

What is Regular?

First, let’s define what regular bowel movements are. The term regular is very individualized. Most people have 1–3 bowel movements per day regularly, while some people have 2–3 per week. Both are considered normal. What you should look for is a change in your regular bowel movements. Constipation is recognized as fewer bowel movements than your normal. Going from two movements per day, to one a day, and then not passing for two days, would not be your normal. A change like this would raise a red flag.

Although most of us have experienced constipation at one point in time, some of us unfortunately experience it more often. It is not a comfortable experience for anyone. When you are constipated, your stools are generally compacted and difficult to pass. Stomach cramping (relieved when passing stools) commonly accompanies constipation.

Multiple factors can affect how efficient your digestive tract is. These factors can impact regularity and include hydration, nutrition, stress, meditation, and of course, exercise.

How Exercise Helps You Stay Regular

There are several factors that come into play when you exercise that drive regular bowel movements

1) Increased Blood Flow

When you exercise, especially interval-type cardiovascular training, blood flow is increased and stronger blood flow pumps through the intestinal muscles. This creates stronger contractions through the digestive tract to decrease transit time of food passing through the intestine. Muscular contraction is directly related to blood flow; less blood flow will mean weaker contractions, which equals slow food transit time.

2) Mechanical Assistance 

Running, skipping, and jumping movements create mechanical assistance to help with bowel movements.

3) Neurological Stimulation

Exercises that increase breathing rate and heart rate will stimulate muscles and nerves in the mucosal lining of your intestines, which activates the squeezing of your intestinal muscles to help with efficiency and decrease waste transit time.

What Types of Exercise Help You Stay Regular?

  • High- and moderate-intensity interval training such as VIITS, HIITs, and MetCon
  • Activities that involve running, jogging, jumping/jumping rope, and dancing
  • Resistant training: Deep squatting and lunging movement such as air squat, reverse lunges, and high box step up.
  • Yoga stretches and poses that stimulate the digestive tract, such as cat-cow, bow pose, cobra, high lunge, and extended triangle 

Timing Your Workouts

Is there a specific time to exercise that will help maintain regularity? No, but there is a best time NOT to exercise, and that is generally within an hour after a meal.

This post-meal period is crucial to get the assimilation and food digestion process well underway—and it requires energy and blood. Exercising during this period will take blood away from the digestion process and put it toward supplying the working muscle, which will delay the digestive process and prolong food transit time.

Exercise Eases Constipation

If you are struggling with constipation, consider adding some digestion-friendly exercises to your regimen. Other simple modifications, such as changing the timing of your meals and workouts, might provide the relief and regularity you’re looking for.The Ixcela test can help you make the changes you need to optimize how you look and feel. 

Learn More About Internal Health Try Yoga Poses for Digestion

About Ixcela

Photo: Ixcela

Ixcela helps individuals measure and improve their internal wellness. Using a simple pinprick blood test, Ixcela measures key metabolites and then makes personalized recommendations to improve gut health through exercise, dietary habits, and supplements.