Physical activity aids in proper digestion and promotes weight loss, both of which can naturally alleviate symptoms of acid reflux. In fact, researchers in the Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology found that reflux sufferers can reduce heartburn by up to 40 percent just by losing 10 to 15 pounds (Source: Sepalika).
Any type of exercise that gets your heart pumping and body moving can be beneficial for your digestive health, but you’ll want to proceed with caution. Certain kinds of exercise can actually exacerbate heartburn symptoms and discourage you from reaching your fitness goals. If you’re looking to develop a new fitness regimen, use these guidelines to keep your workout safe and heartburn-friendly.
Opt for low-impact – Running sprints on the treadmill or taking an intense aerobics class might sound great for weight loss, but these high-impact activities can force digestive acids into your esophagus where they can cause painful irritation. If you notice that a particular activity triggers heartburn symptoms, try something low-impact like walking or the elliptical. As your digestive symptoms improve, you can experiment with higher-impact exercises.
Keep your body upright – Remaining upright during exercise allows gravity to work in your favor by keeping food and digestive acids in your stomach. Use an incline bench when lifting weights instead of lying in the supine or decline position. When doing yoga or Pilates, avoid inverted poses which place the stomach above the esophagus. Ask your instructor for pose modifications which will allow you to continue exercising comfortably.
Tone down the intensity – High-intensity exercise causes blood to flow away from the digestive system to support your larger muscle groups. This slows down digestion and may trigger unwanted symptoms. If you notice heartburn developing during your workout, trying taking the intensity down a notch and see if your symptoms improve.
Try breathing exercises – A small study of GERD patients found that four weeks of breathing exercises improved reflux symptoms for up to nine months (Source: EverydayHealth). Ask a certified trainer or instructor for breathing exercises you can practice in the gym or at home to improve your reflux symptoms. You can also attend yoga, Pilates or tai chi classes which focus on breathing form and technique.
Committing to an exercise routine is just one way to improve your digestive health. Talk to your doctor about other treatments and lifestyle modifications that can help keep your acid reflux symptoms under control. With the right tools for symptom prevention and management, you’ll be able to enjoy newfound freedom without the fear of heartburn!