Exercise is probably the third most effective and natural remedy for constipation, (together with fibre and water), so if you have quite an inactive lifestyle at the moment then you need to get moving!
Whatever the reason for being sedentary - a medical condition, your weight, an injury, or your daily routine means lots of sitting at a desk for long hours - this may well be contributing to your constipation.
Exercise helps to keep things moving and is what, as humans, we are naturally programmed to do.... move!
How does exercise help constipation?
Exercise helps to keep the bowels moving and allows food waste and matter to pass more effectively through the intestines. A lack of exercise, therefore, causes everything to slow down, meaning that stools become hard and dry and that's when things start to back up and you become constipated.
Exercise is one of the most effective, cheap and natural ways to relieve constipation, and should be tried first before reaching for things like laxatives.
What type of exercise do I need to do to help ease constipation?
Don't worry, you haven't got to start running marathons in order to get your bowels moving! The key is in finding an exercise that you enjoy, because you are more likely to stick with it then, but even simple walking will help. Or perhaps you like dancing (even if it’s around your living room), swimming, running, cycling, or using a cross-trainer at the gym – they all count and will all help your constipation.
How much exercise do I need to be doing?
The recommendation is at least 30 minutes, five times a week.
That does sound quite a lot initially, especially if you have a rather busy lifestyle already running around after your kids or at work. However, it doesn’t need to be done all in one go - look for parts of your day when you can add in an extra 10 minutes exercise here and there, such as walking to the shops, getting off the bus a stop earlier or using the stairs rather than the lift, and before you know it you’ll have done 30 minutes in one day. Any exercise is better than none and it will all help to keep your bowels moving and prevent constipation.
If you are injured or bed-ridden, don’t worry, you can keep your body moving by making sure you change positions regularly, and you can do exercises such as leg raises or abdominal crunches. Just check with your doctor first as to which exercises would be appropriate for you personally.
As with all exercise, when you start on any regime start slowly and build it up gradually. Start too fast and you may be put off because it's too hard, or cause yourself an injury, which will just create negative thought patterns such as ‘I can’t do it’ or ‘it hurts too much’ and you won’t be encouraged to go out again. Any new exercise takes time and you need to allow your body to adjust to using muscles that perhaps haven’t been used for a while.
5 top tips to get more exercise into your day
- Take the stairs – instead of the lift, or walk up the escalator. Start with one or two flights at a time but taking the stairs is a great form of exercise and can be done anywhere you go.
- Find a friend – having someone to exercise with makes it much more fun and also encourages you to go out more often as you won’t want to let you friend down, and vice versa. Exercising with a friend also means you spend less time watching the clock or worrying about what you look like.
- Treat yourself to some new kit – for some people how you look is half the battle with exercise, so treat yourself to a new top or a pair of trainers so that when you do go out the door you feel good about yourself before you’ve even started.
- Subscribe to a fitness magazine – reading other people’s stories or getting realistic tips from your favourite magazine can help inspire you to get out and about. Magazines such as Women’s Fitness, Top Sante or Runner's World offer inspiring and practical advice.
- Get off the bus two stops earlier or park the car a bit further away and walk the rest – that in itself will be a 10 minute walk there and back again and before you know it, you’ve done 20 minutes!
Exercise is also great for the health of your heart, decreases stress and anxiety by boosting your mood, and can help you lose weight as part of a healthy diet … so what are you waiting for? Get moving!