Exercises to Ease Constipation

Published on: 24/08/2021

If you're constipated, you know how difficult or painful it can be when going to the bathroom. Find out how exercise can help alleviate these constipation problems.

When constipation strikes, your initial reaction may be to clutch your stomach and curl into the fetal position. It’s because constipation can cause varying degrees of abdominal pain — which is your body’s way of telling you of your need for a bowel movement.

There are even cases wherein people experience intense pain, and this could be an indicator of a more serious health problem. In general, however, constipation can make you feel uncomfortable — some people describe it as a bloated feeling that you may not want to get moving. Nonetheless, it’s been found that physical activity is, in fact, one of the most effective lifestyle hacks for keeping a regular bowel movement. 

What Causes Constipation

Constipation occurs when your colon absorbs too much water from waste (stool), causing the stool to dry out and making it difficult to push out of your body.

As you might already know, nutrients are absorbed as food passes through our digestive tract. The partially digested food (waste) passes through our small intestine and into the large intestine, also known as the colon. The colon collects water from the waste, resulting in a solid substance known as stool. 

If you have constipation, it’s possible that food is moving too slowly through your digestive system. This means the colon is given more time to absorb water from the waste. The stool then becomes dry and hard, making it difficult for you to push out.

How Exercise Can Help Relieve Constipation

According to medical experts, exercise reduces the time it takes for food to pass through the large intestine, which is crucial in the relief of constipation. Aerobic exercises, in particular, are known for increasing your heart rate and breathing rate. This allows for the natural contractions of your intestines' muscles — stimulating and squeezing your intestinal muscles will then help in getting your stool out faster.

What Types of Exercises Can Help

Although practically any exercise can help stool travel more smoothly through your intestines, the following are the best options for persons who suffer from chronic constipation:

  • Deep breathing exercises - breathing from the diaphragm massages the abdominal area, assisting in bowel movement and relieving constipation. It’s generally recommended to practice this type of breathing exercise for approximately five to ten minutes at a time, three to four times per day.
  • Cardio - whether it's running, swimming, cycling, or dancing, cardio activities will improve your breathing, raise your heart rate, and stimulate your bowels. Even if you don't feel like doing a complete workout, simply going for a brisk 30-minute stroll can help your digestion. Cardio is also one of the most effective ways to decrease stress, which can be a major risk factor for persistent constipation.
  • Yoga - certain yoga postures, particularly those that entail prolonged torso twisting or stomach crunching, work to massage the digestive tract and assist in moving stool through your intestines. Three poses that are particularly beneficial are the wind-relieving pose, the seated twist, and the supine twist. 
  • Pelvic floor exercises - The pelvic floor is the layer of muscles that runs along the bottom of your pelvis and contains your bladder and other organs. By exercising these muscles (through contracting and relaxing them), you can increase their strength and enable them to push stool more easily through your colon.

In doing these exercises, you can help relieve yourself of constipation and reap the benefits of physical movement. Just make sure that you wait at least an hour after a large meal before engaging in strenuous physical activity.