How Regular Exercise Improves Digestion

How Regular Exercise Improves Digestion

Believe it or not, a good exercise program can go a long way toward improving your digestion. Some exercise is good for your digestion, while other types of exercise have the potential to make it worse. 

If you are going to use exercise to improve your digestive health, see your doctor to make sure your body is healthy enough to engage in exercise, especially if you haven’t been exercising in a while. 

Exercise is good for digestion because it maximizes the blood flow to the digestive tract. If you can maintain regular exercise, you can help your digestive tract work better. Engaging in a regular exercise program with improve the flow of food through your digestive tract, so you won’t suffer as much with abdominal cramps, bloating, gas, or constipation.

Your digestive system is made from several components. It starts in the mouth, where amylase begins to digest the food as you chew. Then the food travels through the esophagus and into your stomach, where it is further digested. 

Other parts of the digestive system play a role in digestion, including the liver, gallbladder, small intestine, pancreas, and large intestine. It takes about 24 to 72 hours to properly digest your food and exercise can help speed this process along.  

Sometimes, when you exercise, you feel the need to defecate soon afterwards. This is because exercise has increased the blood flow to the digestive tract and it speeds along the digestive process. Exercise not only improves the blood flow to the GI tract but it provides the GI tract with necessary oxygen it needs to digest your food. Your food digests faster and you need to use the restroom shortly thereafter. 

Good Exercises For The Digestive System

Just about any exercise that helps your blood flow and maximizes the oxygen to your digestive system will be good for digestion; however, there are some foods that help the digestive system better than others do. 

Here are some good ways to improve your digestive system through exercise:

  • There are certain poses you can do during yoga that will maximize the blood flow to the GI tract and will aid in digestion. One that comes to mind is the “seated spinal twist.” To do this exercise, just sit on the mat with your leg straight in front of you. Bend the other leg, crossing it over the extended leg. Then twist your body toward the bended leg with your foot flat on the floor. Put your elbow on the outer aspect of the bended leg, twisting further if you are able. Breathe deeply for five breaths, staying with the pose. Switch to the other side so that your abdominal organs are maximally massaged and digestion will go better.
  • Cardiovascular exercise. This is also known as aerobic exercise and includes activities like cycling, running, and brisk walking. These exercises help to strengthen your abdominal muscles, massaging your intestines and helping in digestion. Aerobic exercises increase your respiratory rate and your heart rate so that your intestines will be bathed in oxygen and you will digest your food better.
  • Tai chi. Tai chi is a form of Chinese martial arts that has since become westernized as a form of exercise to maximize health. Not only are you more flexible after doing tai chi but your digestive system will work better. Tai chi massages the GI tract, relieving constipation and helping your digestive system work better.
  • Bicycle riding. This form of exercise has been known to improve heartburn. It increases your heart rate and respiratory rate so that you keep food flowing in the direction it is supposed to instead of backing up in your esophagus.

Exercises that Worsen Digestion

Some exercises will actually make your digestion work more poorly. Vigorous running, for example, will increase the risk of digestive disorders, giving you increased diarrhea and nausea. This is especially true for women who exercise for running, such as marathon running. No one knows the exact effect of running on the digestive system but it appears to have something to do with the effect of exercise on the colon.  

Make sure you wait at least two hours after eating before engaging in an exercise program. Exercising on a full stomach can shunt blood away from the digestive tract to the muscles, adversely affecting the way your GI tract can affect good digestion.
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