Irritable Bowel Syndrome & Physical Exercise

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Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is often relieved with modifications to your diet but did  you know exercise can help with symptoms too?. Be careful  though, rather than helping you cope with the symptoms some activities can worsen IBS symptoms. Let's take a deeper look into what IBS is and how different forms of exercise can impact the condition.

What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?

Irritable bowel syndrome is a chronic condition that results in the dysfunction of the digestive organs, particularly the large bowel. IBS symptoms include abdominal discomfort and changes in bowel motion that might give rise to diarrhea, constipation, or both, which affect the patient's quality of life. If you have IBS, you may suffer from these symptoms but without obvious indicators of damage or disease in your digestive tract.

According to peer-reviewed studies on public health, it isn't easy to tabulate the exact prevalence of IBS. However, it is estimated at approximately 8.1% in North America, Europe, and Australia.

IBS symptoms vary greatly from person to person based on their age, gender, digestive health, and lifestyle. However, these are the most common and prevalent symptoms:


If you have the following symptoms or severe symptoms, visit your nearest physician to get a definitive diagnosis and management. IBS is often grouped in with other gastrointestinal disorders like Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), gastrointestinal tract infections, celiac disease, or even psychological symptoms like anxiety and stress.

A systematic review article on IBS, published in an international journal, has associated IBS with psychosocial disorders like anxiety and depression. However, the association with each subtype, IBS with diarrhea, IBS with constipation, and IBS with mixed symptoms, is yet to be determined.

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3 Exercises That Can Trigger IBS Symptoms 

There is evidence that physical activity improves symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and is critical in IBS management. Regular physical activity and exercise help reduce IBS symptoms and improve the quality of life.

However, intense regular exercise, such as running and ball sports, can worsen symptoms.


Running is an aerobic exercise that may be beneficial for digestion. It can help improve most gastrointestinal symptoms since it stimulates the movement of the digestive system. For people suffering from diarrhea-predominant IBS, however, it can result in an overstimulated gut that further exacerbates their symptoms.

Similarly, for people suffering from constipation-predominant IBS, the stress of running can inhibit bowel movements and, as a result, worsen the condition. Instead of running, you should try brisk walking or jogging to relieve IBS symptoms.

Ball Sports

Ball sports are a fantastic way to keep youngsters healthy and active. Like running, it is an aerobic exercise that combines stamina building and strength training. It has shown significant improvement in losing weight and offers many health advantages to active people.

Still, it is not recommended for IBS patients since quick, sudden movements during this intense exercise can upset the stomach and make symptoms worse.

High-Intensity Workouts

High-intensity exercises comprise short intervals of intense training and supplementary weight lifting, usually 30 seconds each, with breaks in between for recovery. Examples of a high-intensity exercise regimen include pull-ups, crunches, burpees, and squats.

High-intensity workouts help with rapid weight loss since they are excellent for burning abdominal fat. Similar to running, this exercise can also cause an increase in stress and exert added strain. Consequently, it may lead to gastrointestinal irritation and IBS flare-ups in endurance athletes, affecting their overall health.

Some Exercises IBS Patients Should Try Instead

Moderation and balance in all aspects are essential for a healthy lifestyle. Moderate intensity exercises for IBS have therefore been proven to show beneficial results in improving IBS symptoms.


Yoga is one of the most primitive forms of devotion and exercise. It comprises a series of numerous poses and breathing exercises that help stretch most of the muscles in your body. A yoga class can help build strength, reduce stress, ease anxiety, and increase flexibility.

Since yoga is a light exercise, deep breathing helps with stress management, promotes relaxation, and improves mental health without aggravating your GI symptoms. Yoga poses like cobra stretch, upward facing dog, and child bow can help stretch your abdomen, deepen diaphragmatic breathing, and improve IBS symptoms.

Tai Chi

Tai Chi, also sometimes referred to as "shadow boxing," is one of the most ancient Chinese forms of exercise. It comprises a sequence of motions that help focus the mind and concentrate on deep breathing. Traditionally, it focuses on stress alleviation, but modern tai chi has been modified into martial arts and self-defense.

Massachusetts General Hospital is even conducting an ongoing, randomized, and controlled trial on the effects of Tai Chi on IBS. It is expected to yield positive results in one group and help pave the way for other randomized controlled trials that may explore similar interventions.


If you're new to the world of being physically active, exercising can be a daunting task. Walking is a terrific exercise to begin your journey toward a healthier body. It stimulates gut movement, which helps to reduce symptoms of IBS like bloating and constipation.

Walking is a low-impact exercise as it can help with stress relief. Because of this, elderly patients are more likely to integrate it into their daily lives for a longer period.


Cycling is another low-impact workout that targets the majority of the muscles in your lower body. It focuses on stamina building and is a great exercise for all age groups since you can change your cycling speed for your optimum endurance.

Since cycling can also serve as a social activity with friends or family, you are likely to continue it in the long run. The increased muscle movements in your gluteus help stimulate your gut, which helps with the overall gut motility.


Swimming is one of the most ideal cardiovascular exercises for IBS. It is aimed at the core and limb muscles, a more holistic approach than the other exercises. It is an exercise that appeals to people of all ages since it doesn't involve excessive joint movement or weights.

It immensely helps with weight loss and bloating due to its holistic approach. As the gut movements become more regular with a disciplined, moderate-intensity workout plan, the symptoms of IBS begin to improve.

How Diet Plays a Role

There is no definitive cure or management for IBS. So physicians heavily rely on dietary and lifestyle modifications for IBS symptom management and to improve IBS patients' quality of life. Your diet should vary based on age, gender, digestive health, stool consistency, and stool frequency.

Fruits and vegetables should be part of your staple diet. The fiber in them helps food pass easily through the gut, preventing constipation.

A low fodmap diet is recommended for patients suffering from IBS symptoms. It focuses on the decreased intake of fermented foods, which normally results in water retention in the gut.

Avoid caffeine; it stimulates gut movements, which can cause immediate bowel emptying.

Avoid dairy products if you suspect you have lactose intolerance.

Before you begin modifying your diet and lifestyle, be sure to seek professional medical advice from your nearest physician to find out what works best for you.


In this article, we took a look at what IBS is, what the symptoms are, and what exercises can best help control the condition. Fortunately, new and exciting ways to manage IBS are also on the way. Designed with high-quality biometric sensors, the Çava Seat can track your gut health, heart health, fitness progress, and more, without changing your daily routine. Daily bathroom visits provide some of the best information needed to identify gut imbalances and food sensitivities.

By tracking your vitals, body composition, and waste quality the Çava Seat is able to learn over time and make recommendations to help you live a healthier life.


Which exercise is best for IBS?

Low impact exercises like yoga, Tai Chi, cycling, and walking are the best exercises to improve your condition.

Does physical activity help with IBS?

Physical activity helps stimulate gut movement. It rids the bowels of gas and fecal matter. Therefore, it helps deal with bloating and constipation.

Can exercise make IBS worse?

Although exercise helps you rid yourself of bloating and constipation, high-impact exercises can worsen your symptoms. Exercise increases your gut movement, which can worsen your diarrhea.

How can I cure IBS permanently?

There is currently no cure for this. However, lifestyle and dietary modifications have proven to help deal with the symptoms.

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