How Exercise Affects Your Digestion

Last updated August. 16, 2018

Exercise is a great activity which is very essential for a healthy living. It is also a common knowledge that digestion is key to healthy living.

The nourishment of the body comes from the absorption of nutrients from foods that have been properly digested.

This makes exercise and digestion very significant, but then, is there a relationship between the two?

There have been several questions about the relationship between exercise and digestion. Many individuals want to understand what happens in their digestive system when they exercise – they want to be sure if exercise is good for digestion or bad for the process.

Surely, exercise affects digestion. The interaction between the two is not just like a straightforward interaction that can either be good or bad.

Truth is, exercise can be very beneficial to digestion as well as problematic depending on a number of different factors.

Basically, what you eat, how much you eat, the time between eating and exercise, the type of exercise you engage in, and the time you spend exercising will affect the digestive process.

All these will play a part in whether your exercise routine will affect your digestion positively or negatively.

There are important points you should note about exercise and digestion, and we will discuss them individually.


Exercise And Digestion are Mutually Exclusive

This is a fact that many people do not really consider. Exercise and digestion are mutually exclusive; they both do not happen at the same time.

When you are engaged in exercise, your body will not be utilizing its energy for digestion.

Instead of that, the body slows down any digestive activity so that more blood can be diverted to feed your muscles to function well, and your lungs for steady respiration.

Even if a particular form of exercise is targeted at the abdominal region and can help move things along, it doesn’t mean that it will encourage digestion instantaneously.

Exercise Can Actually Cause Some Gastrointestinal Problems

This may sound a bit odd, but it is a fact. There is a possibility of suffering from some gastrointestinal problems when you exercise. This is especially true when you engage in exercise immediately after a meal.

Depending on the type of food you ate and the intensity of your exercise routine, you may suffer such problems in the form of a stomach ache, heartburn, and vomiting.

A complex meal that is high in fiber, protein or fat, for instance, coupled with a high-intensity exercise will most likely result in some of the problems mentioned above.

The major key to avoiding some of the problems is to avoid exercising immediately after a meal. 


Exercise Is Good When Timed Appropriately

If you have been following with an open mind, you would have noticed that we haven’t ruled out the fact that exercise can actually be good for digestion.

The major secret is that you need to time your workout schedule appropriately. Do not exercise immediately after a meal. Give your body the time to rest and digest the meal before working out to reduce the chances of gastrointestinal upset.

If your meal is rich in protein or fat, for instance, give your body about two or three hours to digest the food before setting out on your workout routine.

Benefits Of Exercise for Digestion

Well planned and executed workout routines have so many ways it can improve your digestive health.

In fact, healthy living can be summarised as healthy eating combined with a regular exercise regimen and a positive mental outlook.

Every aspect of your body including the gastrointestinal system can always benefit from good workout routines. We will consider some specific benefits of exercise for digestion such as:

Exercise Strengthens The Digestive Tract

The abdominal organs are surrounded by muscles that aid in digestion. The muscles of the stomach, for instance, play an essential role in digestion, and when they are strengthened through exercise, the entire system receives a boost.

Exercise Improves The Gut Microbiota

Ever wonder while athletes suffer less sickness than regular people? Of course, they exercise to keep fit. Do you also know that they have a more diverse gut microbiota? Well, that is just the truth.

It has been found that regular exercise can help to build the microorganism composition of the digestive system and these microorganisms are beneficial in digestion.


Exercise Helps To Reduce Stress Which Also Improve Digestion

Regular exercise is known to reduce stress level and this is also very essential in digestive health.

There are some gastrointestinal conditions that can be heightened by stress such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). With regular exercise, a sufferer of IBS can receive some form of relief.

Some other regular digestive problems like constipation can also be improved through regular and well-timed exercise routines.

Exercise Helps To Reduce The Risk Of Some Digestive Problems

Being overweight and lack of exercise has been linked to so many health problems including some digestive health issues.

With regular exercise, the risk of some digestive problems like colon cancer, gallstones, and others is reduced.

Exercise Boost Blood Circulation

This may sound more like a circulatory system’s benefit, but it is also very essential in digestion. When there is improved blood flow, it reaches your digestive system and it is essential to keep it operating at the optimum level.

When you are very fit, the amount of blood diverted from your circulatory system is greatly reduced as your muscles become more efficient.


There Are Some Specific Exercises That Improves Digestion

While most exercise activities can be beneficial to the digestion system, there are some specific routines that can actually target your digestive system:

Cardiovascular Activities

Cardiovascular activities are good for every aspect of the body. Of course, any activity that can get blood to circulate faster is great for the body, but simple cardio activities like cycling, running, and walking can help in so many ways to improve digestion.

They strengthen the abdominal muscles, get your heart rate up, reduce intestinal sluggishness, and stimulate the movement of digestive waste through the tract.



Pilates has so many health benefits and digestive health is part of it. Some pilates exercises increase blood flow to the digestive system and massages the abdominal organs. This way, digestion is improved.

Cautions While Exercising

It is good to give your body the proper time to digest whatever food you’ve eaten before setting out to exercise.

Food substances digest at different speeds, but it is advisable to give your body at least two hours to digest a meal before exercising.

If you eat a meal rich in protein or fat, you can wait for about 3 hours before getting involved in a serious exercise.

It is also not advisable to eat a really large meal before embarking on exercise. Do not also subscribe to the idea of exercising on an empty stomach.

This will leave you feeling tired and exhausted and can cause you more problems too.

It is also essential that you stay hydrated during your exercise routine. If you are dehydrated, you may suffer some gastrointestinal problems, as well as other health challenges.

It is also important that you avoid food that causes you some problems such as dairy products, sugar, and caffeine before an exercise routine.

Exercise can be great for your digestive health when done the right way. If it is done the wrong way, there are some consequences including gastrointestinal problems.

We have discussed the major ways exercise affects digestion and if you do things as recommended here, you will gain a lot from your workout regimen.

Copyrights © San Antonio Gastroenterologist

Site Created by Gastroenterologist Marketing