Using Exercise to Manage Irritable Bowel Syndrome

If you live with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), you may have heard that exercise can help you manage symptoms and flare-ups. If you have ever picked up a fitness magazine, you know that “exercise” includes a myriad of different categories, and when it comes to treating IBS, not all exercises are created equal. So, if you want to try exercise to alleviate your symptoms, what do you do? Fear not! We have put together this handy guide to help you find the right workout to conquer your attacks.

Take a Dip

Those with IBS know that high impact activity could mean trouble. Swimming is a great alternative to running because it’s gentle on the body, yet it offers a great workout. Try doing laps around the pool or partake in a water aerobics class! It’s a good way to stretch out your muscles and help reduce bloating.

Look for Exercises that Promote Stretching and Meditation

If you are someone who prefers high-intensity interval training as opposed to more calming methods of exercise, know that you can benefit from gentler physical and mental workouts during a flare-up. By now you’ve probably heard about the positive effects a consistent yoga practice can have on your mind and body, but in case you forgot, we’d like to remind you; practicing yoga allows you to lengthen and strengthen your muscles. Yoga is a wonderful way to relax, manage stress and improve your balance. If you have Irritable Bowel Syndrome, you know that physical and mental relaxation is key to management.

Tai Chi is another type of meditative exercise that is low impact and self-paced. The ancient Chinese practice involves a series of slow and controlled movements accompanied by deep breathing. The movements allow for energy to flow through your organs, which is great news for your digestive system! If done correctly, you should feel minimal stress on your joints and muscles. Like yoga, Tai Chi offers a ton of health benefits, including, improved balance and flexibility, decreased stress and anxiety, and improved quality of sleep.

Did we mention you can practice both of these exercises from the comfort of your own home?

Skip the Run, Go for a Walk

Fast running with a lot of up-and-down movement can lead to cramping, gas, and what we call runner’s diarrhea. We’d recommend taking a stroll around the neighborhood. Thirty minutes of walking daily can help you maintain your weight and improve your mood. If you have to run, begin with a slow jog. If after 10 minutes you feel comfortable kicking it up a notch, try to work up to a faster pace gradually – paying attention to what your body is telling you.

Think Twice About Hitting the CrossFit Box

By now, you have probably heard about the workout craze, CrossFit. Magazines, celebrity trainers, and Tyler from your office cannot seem to stop touting the workout as cure-all miracle of health science. However, if you suffer from IBS, you may want to put the protein shake down and skip the box. Workouts such as CrossFit involve activities like lifting heavy weights at a rapid pace, which can upset your digestive system; remember, you can’t see your gains if you’re bloated and doubled over in pain!

Of course, Strength training has been shown time and again to offer tons of benefits, and when your digestive system is feeling steady, grab your sweatband, pick up a kettlebell, and step up your daily workout! However, if you are dealing with a flare-up, consider weight training at your own pace.


We aim to help our readers lead a happy and healthy lifestyle in the face of GI challenges, and we understand only you know your limits and what your body can handle when symptoms appear.  If you experience success with a workout that is not listed above, we would love to hear about it! Be sure to talk with your doctor before starting any intense exercise program.