Fitness Articles

Fight IBS with Fitness

Exercise to Alleviate this Common Condition


So what kind of exercise is best for someone who has IBS? Although physical activity in general will help, certain activities have been shown to reduce stress levels:
  • Yoga reduces stress by encouraging deep, rhythmic breathing. It also promotes relaxation by increasing the flow of blood and oxygen to each part of the body. For more information on the benefits of yoga, read Relax Your Mind and Body with Yoga and A Beginner's Guide to Yoga.
  • Stretching exercises stimulate receptors in the nervous system that decrease the production of stress hormones. In addition, stretching exercises release tension and increase blood flow to the muscles. Not sure where to begin? SparkPeople's Stretching Guide will help you get started!
  • Pilates connects the mind, body, and spirit, which can help you manage stress more effectively. Its goal is to improve flexibility and strength, creating a balance between the two. Participants gain and develop body awareness through different exercises and stretches, which target specific muscle groups. For more information on Pilates, check out Pass the Pilates, Please and A Skeptic's Guide to Pilates.
  • Activities that you enjoy. The more you like what you're doing, the greater the chances that you'll stick with it and feel good about exercising!
It's always more enjoyable if you can exercise when you're feeling your best. Although it's counterintuitive to think that you should exercise when your IBS symptoms are causing discomfort, a little bit of activity may actually help. Because exercise pumps blood to other parts of the body other than the digestive system, exercise can help relieve digestive distress. Also try to schedule your exercise at least a few hours after your last meal. Before exercising, avoid eating foods you know cause a flare up in your symptoms. It's important to listen to your body, but sometimes when exercising is the last thing you want to do, it's the thing that will help the most!

Regular exercise is going to make you more physically fit and give you a good way to deal with stress. Both of these benefits are helpful when fighting the symptoms of IBS. The better you feel, the less likely it is that IBS will negatively impact your quality of life. So start exercising and start feeling better today!
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About The Author

Jen Mueller Jen Mueller
Jen received her master's degree in health promotion and education from the University of Cincinnati. A mom and avid marathon runner, she is a certified personal trainer, certified health coach and advanced health & fitness specialist. See all of Jen's articles.

Member Comments

  • CVICKI51
    I have had IBS as long as I can remember. I am 63. have been to many doctors and have had many, many tests and tried many medications. I experience IBS everyday with severe cramping and diarrhea . I have found an anti-diarrheal (Target brand) and script from doctor for Bentyl helps best for me. I take 4 of the anti-diarrheal and can take up to 4 Bentyl a day. (I usually only need 1 or 2) Unless it is a very bad day. I have found no relief or way to lessen or get rid of this curse. I just live with it. Your life is centered around where the bathrooms are everywhere you go and how quickly you can get there. People who don't have IBS have no idea of the pain you go through, especially those you work for or with. Sometimes it is quite embarrassing how many times you have to run to the bathroom while at work or shopping and you really don't want to explain it. I am so glad I found this site and hope to find advice from others how they live with and control this nightmare. - 11/8/2014 11:22:42 PM
    hi iam tina i have colitis since i was in my 30s i just started my wight loss so iam new at everytime i walk its like i have to run to the bathroom so i dont walk a long way only in the park maybe i do better since iam eating right and walking but its has gotting better since i started this dite and walking - 1/23/2014 6:20:09 PM
    I've been taking prescription med's for Crohn's Disease for the last ten years, with varying results and effectiveness. Over the last three months I've been eating clean: eliminating processed foods and alcohol, cutting down on red meat, upping my fruit and veggie intake, just generally doing what we all know in our heart of hearts needs doing. That plus following a planned walking program appear to have made a difference. We're in the middle of some major life changes and my stress levels are high (it's 3 am and here I am already up and fretting) and my symptoms are surprisingly manageable. - 12/13/2013 4:08:26 AM
  • @SVIPPERMAN - Try a whole food multi-vitamin. They are so much easier on the system! - 8/22/2013 4:20:37 PM
    I'm 44 and have had IBS all my life. About 18 months ago, I began exercising and eating better, and have lost 25 pounds. I'm now within my proper weight range. The key to controlling my IBS is rising early (5:30 am everyday), relaxing with some reading material and coffee (quiet time) and then exercising for about 30 minutes. I have found that if I stay in bed later, I don't get the same results. I began to do yoga about 3 months ago, and I think this has helped further. I try to exercise for another 30 minutes when I get home from work, and I also take a probiotic with my evening meal. I recently had a set back when I started taking a multivitamin, but was able to determine that was the cause of my problem and stopped. My quality of life has greatly increased. Being self employed, I felt like I just had to tough it out on the bad days, and that could sure be miserable. I know this doesn't seem like earth shattering advice, but I hope it might help someone if they try it. - 8/6/2013 2:49:49 PM
  • Thank god I don't have a problem. - 5/29/2013 4:03:58 PM
    I wish you could support your some findings from actual medical trials of patients that have IBS and and show the gains or losses from each group those that exercise and those that do not. I have been working out for the last three years I started at 250# now I am down to 215# with moderate exercise. I was doing well up until recently my IBS became worse. I found that if I worked out then worked a full day by days end I was in a lot of discomfort with my IBS. I went to see my doctor because it was so sever and I had to have a colonoscopy and an endoscopy in which no really new problems were found it just left me in more pain. So I would really like to know if moderate exercise helps with IBS. - 4/12/2012 2:22:57 PM
  • I have noticed that even with consistent exercise my IBS symptoms are not really impacted. My doctor specifically told me to walk or run at least 10 mins a day, which I did, but it did not help my symptoms. My doctor did recommend Amitiza, which he explained was supposed to increase the fluid in my colon. However, I had an allergic reaction to it and could not continue on the medication. I am going to ask my doctor about the bentyl. - 12/26/2011 8:55:01 PM
    I also have severe IBS(really interferes with work). I have noticed that stress, not just mental stress plays a part in how often I have a flare-up. For example; if the house is a mess or bills are unpaid or the dishes are piled high etc. I can't relax. When everything is in order and the house is clean, and I don't have to worry about finances my symptoms are much better. Stress is a definite trigger with me. The ideas mentioned here in this article are helpful. - 10/31/2011 2:39:26 PM
    I have been on bentyl for about 6 years now and it helps me alot.
    It is an anti-spasmatic drug so when you take it it relaxes everything.
    It really helps with the severe pain of IBS. - 5/29/2011 3:23:57 PM
  • I've had the same experience! I was going along steadily after I had my son, with flare ups maybe once a month (sometimes less often than that). My son is 5 now and I decided it would be a good idea to take some weight off and feel better by walking and changing my diet. I'm now on very low carbs, and walking about 3 miles a day. I've had to call in sick and come in late almost every day since I started walking. I've lost weight (about 20lbs), but in all honesty, have never felt worse in my life. I've asked my doctor about it and he won't prescribe anything and recommended yoga. Is anyone on any meds from a doctor? If so, what are you on, and how is it working for you? Help! - 2/22/2011 2:18:15 PM
    I've has severe IBS ( I can't even work) and I've been walking on the treadmill and doing yoga for years now. I've noticed it doesn't help and it very hard to do with severe headaches, bloated, cramps from constipation. - 11/30/2009 11:37:25 AM

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