Exercise to Prevent and Relieve Constipation
Constipation is a widespread digestive problem, affecting 1 in 5 Australians1. It can present differently for each individual, but some of the common symptoms include:2
- Decreased urge — You may feel less of a desire to go to the toilet.
- Hard stools — You can develop dry, hard stools that are painful to pass.
- Straining — Having to strain to pass a stool.
- Taking longer to go — It may take longer than usual to have a bowel movement.
- Pain — Constipation can cause abdominal cramping and bloating.
- Incomplete evacuation — You could feel like you haven’t fully emptied your bowels after going to the toilet.
- Infrequency — You may have two or fewer bowel movements per week
Causes of constipation
There can be several reasons for experiencing the occasional incidence of constipation. These can include:
- Low fibre diet — Eating a diet high in processed foods usually means you’re eating a diet low in fibre. Fibre is important to add bulk to the stool and help the stool’s transit through the bowel. Swap out the white bread for wholegrain bread, try an apple instead of a biscuit for afternoon tea and make sure you pile your plate high with vegetables at dinner instead of pasta or white rice.
- Dehydration— Not drinking enough fluids can dehydrate your body and can lead to a harder, drier stool, which can be painful and difficult to pass.
- Inactivity— When your body is sluggish, so is your bowel. This leads to the stool spending a longer time in your gut, where it becomes drier and more compact.
- Ignoring the urge — Not going to the toilet when the urge strikes, means the stool spends a longer time in the gut, where it becomes more compact and harder to pass.
Some people may speak to their pharmacist for a laxative to relieve constipation symptoms, and they certainly have their place. But did you know that certain exercises can help relieve constipation?
Exercise to ease constipation
When the body is active, it decreases the amount of time it takes food to pass through the large intestine. As a result, the amount of water that is absorbed by the colon is reduced. Small studies have looked at the effect of different types of exercise on the symptoms of constipation.
In a systematic review, five studies found walking significantly improved symptoms of constipation. One study found that after a 12-week program comprising 30 minutes of brisk walking at least twice a week and 11 minutes of daily home-based exercises, colonic transit times (how quickly a stool moves through the lower bowel) were accelerated, despite no changes to dietary fibre and fluid intake.^3,^4
Qigong was shown in two studies* to significantly improve the symptoms of constipation as well as improve general health and wellbeing after a 12-week intervention.^4
A study looking at the impact of Iyengar Yoga on young adults’ lives (18-26 years) with Irritable Bowel Syndrome found that constipation improved post a 6-week twice per week yoga program.5
Suppose you find that your diet and exercise* changes are not effective in relieving your constipation. In that case, you might want to try taking an over-the-counter constipation relief option, such as the Dulco range of products. The Dulco range includes Dulcolax Tablets and Dulcolax SP Drops that provide clinically proven1-3 relief from constipation. Dulcolax suppositories are effective in 20-45 minutes for predictable relief from constipation.
By changing your lifestyle and diet, increasing the amount you exercise, and taking constipation medication when necessary, you may help relieve constipation.
As always, speak to your doctor before beginning a new exercise routine or if you are experiencing chronic constipation.
Always read the label and follow the directions for use.
1. Kamm et al. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2011; 9(7):577-583. Sponsored by Boehringer-Ingelheim.
2. Kienzle-Horn, S. et al. Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics. 2006; 23 (10): 1479-1488. Sponsored by Boehringer-Ingelheim.
3. Mueller-Lissner et al. Am J Gastroenterol. 2010;105(4):897-903. Sponsored by Boehringer-Ingelheim.
4. Wiriyakosol, S et al. Asian Journal of Surgery. 2007; 30 (3): 167-172.
5. Mandel, L and Silinsky, J. Canadian Medical Association Journal. 1960; 83 (8): 384-387.
6. Phillips, R.W. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. 1965; 13 (1): 78-79.
7. Pincock, J.G. Canadian Medical Association Journal. 1960; 82: 268-269. 8. Lvine, J. and Rinzlner, S.H. The American Journal of Cardiology. 1960; 108-110.
^1. How to prevent and manage constipation [Internet]. Health.qld.gov.au. 2021 [cited 25 February 2021].
Available from: https://www.health.qld.gov.au/news-events/news/prevent-treat-manage-constipation
^2. Constipation [Internet]. Betterhealth.vic.gov.au. 2021 [cited 23 February 2021]. A
^3. De Schryver A, Keulemans Y, Peters H, Akkermans L, Smout A, De Vries W et al. Effects of regular
physical activity on defecation pattern in middle-aged patients complaining of chronic constipation.
Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology. 2005;40(4):422-429.
^4. Gao R, Tao Y, Zhou C, Li J, Wang X, Chen L et al. Exercise therapy in patients with constipation: a
systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Scandinavian Journal of
^5. Evans S, Lung K, Seidman L, Sternlieb B, Zeltzer L, Tsao J. Iyengar Yoga for Adolescents and Young
Adults With Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology & Nutrition. 2014;59(2):244-253 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25025601/
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