A sedentary lifestyle has been shown to be a major contributing factor in a sedentary colon! Exercise stimulates peristalsis, the rhythmic contraction of the intestinal muscles that moves food through the gut. It also improves muscle tone/strength throughout the body, including the gut. Let us take a deeper look into how aerobic and strength exercises can help your bowel health.
Aerobic exercise allows your gut to experience slight shocks and jolts as your body moves, this stimulates reflex contractions of the gut muscle. Jogging, skipping, hopping, jumping, stepping, dancing are particularly usefull as it causes sudden, strong contractions of the abdominal muscles by which the colon is compressed and stimulated.
Aerobic exercises have the added benefit of deep breathing. The deep breathing in exercise actually massages your intestines as your lungs fill up. The diaphragm (one of your breathing muscles situated just above the colon) expands when you inhale. As it expands it presses against the upper portion of your colon, helping push the food along. The deeper your breath, the greater the push of the diaphragm on the colon.
Aim for a minimum of 20-30minutes of aerobic exercises 2-3 times a week. Sometimes a brisk walk or light jog is all that is needed to get your bowels moving.
You also want to do some exercise that strengthens and tones your muscles. Strong abdominal muscles are needed to support your intestines and keep them in their optimal position. It is also needed for your gut to push against during peristalsis and defecation. Aim to do abdominal or core strengthening exercises at least 1-2 times per week. You can try Pilates as an effective, low impact exercise to strengthen you core muscles.
If your body is not used to a high fibre diet you may experience gas and/or bloating until your body adapts to your new diet. We therefore recommend that you increase your fibre content slowly and remember to drink enough water to lessen any discomfort.
Other ways exercise improves bowel health is due to:
- Exercise also increases circulation to all parts of the body, including the gut;
- It stimulates the flow of your lymph, helping remove toxins from your body faster;
- It helps alleviate stress and enhance feelings of well-being, both of which will benefit a sluggish gut.