Ease constipation with exercise

Medics say that drinking enough water and regular exercise helps ease constipation.Net photos

Constipation is when your bowel movements are tough or happen less often than normal. Quite a number of factors cause constipation, for instance; not consuming enough fibre or drinking enough water, and lack of enough exercise. Doctors suggest that regular exercise can relieve constipation.

Dr Jean Damascene Gasherebuka, a physiotherapist at Oshen-King Faisal Hospital, Kigali, says, exercise helps alleviate constipation by lowering the time it takes food to move through the large intestine. This limits the amount of water your body absorbs from the stool. Hard, dry stools are harder to pass. Plus, aerobic exercise speeds up your breathing and heart rate. This helps to stimulate the natural squeezing (or contractions) of muscles in your intestines. Intestinal muscles that squeeze better will help move stools out quickly.

According to Michel Baingi, a Kigali-based general doctor, constipation is a trouble of digestion due to low peristalsis (diminution of bowel movements). This trouble requires a simple solution like diet, and physical exercise.

“Sporting supports the muscles in order to brace the abdominal and pelvic muscles through swimming, cycling, equitation, maculation, among others. If the abdominal and pelvic muscles are well invigorated, they put contraction and pressure on the intestine. So this strengthens and allows the intestine peristalsis to push faeces out of the tract intestine by anus,” he notes.


Gasherebuka advises to wait for an hour after a big meal before doing any tough physical activity. After eating, blood flow increases to your stomach and intestines to help your body digest the food. If you exercise right after eating, blood flows away from your stomach, and to your heart and muscles instead.

He explains that since the strength of the gut’s muscle contractions depends on how much blood it has, less blood in the GI tract means weaker contractions, and the food will move sluggishly through the intestines. This can lead to bloating, gas, and constipation. So after a big meal, give your body a chance to digest it before you start on that nature hike.

Baingi urges that if the constipation is caused by depression or stress, one can do yoga, as it gives the comfortable effect to the mind and spirit.

He adds that it is good to do physical exercise because it combines steady muscle and comfortable spirit, and that is very important to battle constipation.


“Simply getting up and moving can help lessen constipation. A regular walking plan, even 10 to 15 minutes, several times a day can help the body and digestive system work at their best. If you are already fit, you might choose aerobic exercise: running, jogging, swimming, or swing dancing, for example; all of these exercises can help keep the digestive tract healthy. Stretching may also help ease constipation, and yoga as well,” Gasherebuka explains.


Gasherebuka advises to always seek for medical advice to identify the cause of constipation, especially when it lasts for many days. Work with your doctor to figure out which type of treatment or medicine is best for your situation.

For Baingi, other ways to ease constipation could be through feeding on fibre foods like, vegetables, fruits and drinking more water, not iced.

According to WebMD, suppositories help treat constipation, for instance, they go directly into the rectum. They typically work by making the intestines squeeze so one has a bowel movement. Some also soften the stool. You can also do enemas; these push fluid directly into your rectum. Sometimes you use plain tap water, but it’s often mixed with sodium phosphate (fleet phospho-soda) or soap suds. The added fluid softens your stool and makes it easier for bowel movement.

“Dietary advice to reduce constipation during pregnancy should include promoting adequate intake of water. For women with troublesome constipation that is not relieved by dietary modification or fibre supplementation, stakeholders may wish to consider intermittent use of poorly absorbed laxatives,” World Health Organisation states.





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