The Worst Workouts To Do If You Have IBS—And 5 You Should Try Instead
If you suffer from IBS, you know when you’re having a flare-up. Your digestive system feels like it’s in overdrive, and the last thing you want to do is add even more stress to your body with a vigorous workout. That doesn’t mean you can’t exercise (in fact, you should—exercise can help IBS symptoms), it just means that you need to be smart about it.
Before you lace up your sneakers, ask yourself: “How much intensity can my body handle?” The answer will be different for everyone, and it will take some trial and error as well as listening to your body to find the answer. But in general, ballistic and jarring exercises, any activity involving up and down movements, or anything that puts intense pressure on your core are not great bets. On the other hand, gentle and relaxing workouts will help with stress management and improve well-being—both of which will ease IBS symptoms. (Want to workout more but don’t have the time? Then try Fit in 10, the new workout program that only takes 10 minutes a day.)
Below, 4 exercises to steer clear of, and 5 to try instead. As always, check with your doc before making any changes to your workout routine.
The up and down motion of running may lead to cramping and diarrhea. That said, there are plenty of runners with IBS who manage this type of exercise because they know their bodies well, and when to ease up on the intensity. If you’re determined to run, go easy on yourself to figure out just how much you can handle.
Skip: Ball sports
Take a pass on soccer, volleyball, and the like. Jumping and moving can lead to discomfort and heavy cramping, and catching a really strong throw or being tackled can risk upsetting your already delicate digestive system.
Many CrossFit movements involve lifting heavy weight at a rapid pace. And while the movements themselves may not aggravate IBS, the intensity of the routine may upset your digestive system. Unless you’re very aware of how to modify moves, try lifting weights at your own pace in a less intense environment.
Skip: High intensity style workouts
Any class or workout routine that involves hard sprints, pushing to muscle failure, giving “all out” effort or maxing out your heart rate isn’t going to calm your nervous system. Pushing yourself is great, but during an IBS flare it may add too much stress to your body.
Yoga is an amazing way to stretch, slow down your breath, and recenter and balance your body. Recommended poses include forward bends, knee-to-chest pose, and twists, all of which relax stomach muscles and help aid digestion and elimination.
A brisk 30-minute daily walk can majorly help IBS symptoms. Walking is gentle, and can ease anxiety, boost your mood, and release endorphins, all essential when it comes to managing stress.
Bike riding is smooth, balanced and a great way to release tension. The focus is on the lower body and there aren’t many ballistic or unpredictable movements involved that could stress your body. Go for low intensity; bike rides on a flat road are best. If you’re biking indoors, keep the intensity and gear level at a low to medium level.
A great alternative to “pounding” exercises like running, swimming is low impact, low intensity, and can really torch calories. On days you feel bloated or crampy, swimming is an easy way to stretch out and move your muscles.
Try: Tai Chi
Tai Chi is the ultimate mind-body connection practice. Not only do you get physical benefits from the gentle movements, but you’re practicing a “moving meditation” at the same time. The practice will help you to breathe slowly and more easily, which helps keep stress at bay and promotes relaxation.