Exercise and IBS – 5 tips for exercising when you have IBS
This month is all about healthy living and of course exercise is part of that. If you have IBS and often feel bloated, it can be hard to get yourself to exercise. But I can recommend everyone with IBS to exercise. I really notice that I feel better when I move a lot during the day.
Research has shown that light to medium exercise has a positive effect on IBS symptoms. Moving and exercise reduce stress and this can have a positive effect on your gut. Being fitter also has a positive impact on IBS complaints. So, these are very good reasons to do some exercise when you have IBS.
It is important to note that IBS symptoms and reactions are different for everyone. This also counts for exercise. Some kinds of exercise might cause IBS problems for you, while other kinds of exercise improve your symptoms.
There are a few important things to take into account when you exercise with IBS:
- Start slowly. Are you just starting out with exercise and don’t you know what your body can handle? Or are you afraid to get symptoms during exercise? Just start slowly. You can start with a 30-minute walk or a yoga class. Yoga is known for being a stress-reducing and relaxing sport and that is good for your gut. Are you scared to follow a group class because of your IBS? On Youtube you can find a lot of yoga classes that you can do from home. Like this, you can do exercises at your own speed and feel comfortable.
- Listen to your body. If you are having a bad day, for example with diarrhoea, it might not be smart to go running. It is very important to listen to your body when you exercise. I really notice the benefits of exercising on my stomach and because of that I often go running, also with a bloated stomach. Just because I know that it usually has a positive impact on my symptoms. But something I rather don’t do when I am bloated is following a group class. When I feel bloated I don’t feel comfortable and I rather exercise alone. When I have a lot of symptoms, I try to go for a walk. This is a safe way of exercising for me. I don’t have to do a lot for it, but it still makes me feel better. Try to find out for yourself which ways of exercising are most comfortable for your body. Is it really not possible to go for that run that you planned? Just go for a walk instead. Try not to get frustrated with yourself for not being able to do something, but try to decide every time which kind of exercise works best for your body at that moment.
- Pick an exercise that you enjoy. This counts not only for people with IBS but basically for everyone. To motivate yourself to keep moving, it is important to pick a sport that you really like. I did several team sports when I was younger, but I found out really quickly that it wasn’t my thing. For years I continued to do it, while I actually really disliked it and that made me feel very negative towards exercising. Later I found out that I really liked doing strength training in the gym and running and now I have a lot more fun exercising. Because I do things that I like, I don’t have difficulties with doing a workout 3 times per week.
- Move every day, also on days that you don’t work out. Try to do a light form of exercise every day. I have a sedentary job and I often sit at my computer 8 hours per day. I know how easy it is to forget to move, but it is very important to do this anyway. I notice real differences on days when I hardly move with days that I got a bit of exercise in. Try to take a short walk before going to work, get up to walk around the office at work regularly, go for a walk during your lunch break or walk in the evening when you get home from work. My boyfriend and I often go for a walk after dinner together. It feels nice to move after eating a meal, we have some quality time together after a day of work and it is good to get the daily exercise in!
- Drink enough and be careful with food. If you exercise with IBS it is important to stay hydrated to avoid symptoms. Drink enough before you exercise and also during and after exercise. Make sure that you don’t eat a heavy meal right before exercising. This causes problems for a lot of people. I usually eat a light meal before exercising and I make sure that I eat at least an hour before I go. Also, pay attention not to eat things that can trigger IBS complaints. Coffee, spicy food, fatty and sugary food are foods that can trigger IBS complaints quicker.
I hope that this gives you some motivation to exercise, even when you have IBS! What is your favourite kind of exercise?
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