3 Ways Exercise Helps Keep You Regular

By Craig McFarlane

What is Regular?

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.

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. 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 regularly than others. It is not a comfortable experience for anyone. Constipation is recognized as fewer bowel movements than your normal. When constipated, your stools are generally compacted and difficult to pass. Stomach cramping (relieved when passing stools) commonly accompanies constipation.

There are multiple factors that 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 will 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, MetCon
  • Activities that involve running, jogging, jumping, jump 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. Examples include cat cow, bow pose, cobra, high lunge, extended triangle. 

Timing 

Is there a specific time to exercise that will help maintain regularity?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 under way and requires energy and blood. Exercises during this period will take blood away from the digestion process and towards supplying the working muscle, which will delay the digestive process and transit time for food to pass.

Learn More About Internal Health Try Yoga Poses for Digestion