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Exercise and Digestive Health

Written By Megan Brandt • 2 min read

Did you know that how much we move affects how our digestive system functions, independent of food intake? Exercise not only helps you digest food better and manage digestive health conditions, but it also positively affects your gut microbiome!

Below are some of the ways exercise can benefit your gut health:

1. Reduces risk of colon cancer

Exercise has been found to reduce a person’s chances of developing colon cancer. Physical activity helps energy balance, regulates hormones, and boosts metabolism. Staying active also boosts your immunity and helps control inflammation in your digestive tract, all of which help to reduce your overall cancer risk.

2. Decreases constipation

Exercising helps the food you are digesting move through the intestines better. Constipation has been shown to be a direct result of inactivity. While you might not feel like exercising when you’re constipated, it could be exactly what you need. Try walking or swimming more if you become constipated easily.

3. Improves irritable bowel syndrome

Exercise has been found to reduce the symptoms and improve the quality of life of those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Not only does exercise improve digestive-related symptoms in patients with IBS, but it also improves their overall quality of life by reducing associated symptoms of depression, anxiety, and fatigue.

4. Prevents gallstones

Gallstones occur when deposits of bile form in your gallbladder. These painful stones can result in acute pancreatitis which can result in a trip to the hospital. Exercise can prevent gallstones from forming by keeping the bile moving and because exercise lowers insulin and triglyceride levels while raising good, healthy cholesterol.

5. Managing diverticular disease 

Diverticular disease is more prevalent among those who have sedentary occupations (like sitting at a desk). Regular exercise can help decrease the pressure in the colon and keep food moving. This results in lowering the risk of diverticular disease complications and preventing the diverticula from forming in the first place.

6. Changes gut microbiome

Studies have shown that exercise affects the types of bacteria in your gut independent of other factors, like your diet, no matter if you are new to exercising or not. In fact, there was a decrease found in the microbes associated with inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. However, studies have also shown that if exercise was not regular, then the gut returned to its original state. Another reason to be consistent with your exercise!

Whether you are living with a chronic digestive problem or you are aiming to maintain an optimal level of digestive health and functioning, it takes more than just food consumption to get you there. Through consistent exercise, you can improve your digestive system, aid in overall digestive function, eliminate toxins from your gut, and maintain a healthy microbiome.

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