Health: Exercise your way to good digestive health

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From irritable bowel syndrome to heartburn, 40 per cent of the Leeds population may be suffering with digestive health issues, says the NHS.

With this in mind, local-to-Leeds Reebok master trainer, Stacey Jacques, reveals how fitness can help reduce these often embarrassing problems.

Stacey says: “Exercise is important for our digestive health because it helps to control weight and stimulate the natural contraction of our intestinal muscles, assisting in the movement of food through our intestines more rhythmically.”

Here are Stacey’s top fitness tips to fight some of the most common digestive issues:


There’s a common perception that exercise can cause heartburn, there are steps we can take to help prevent that from happening such as reducing our weight by eating right, not eating right before bedtime, elevating our heads up with pillow cases at night, and drinking water. Fair to moderate exercise such as indoor cycling, or outdoor hiking is best for those wishing to improve this acid reflux condition.


Yoga can be an effective method of reducing the symptoms of bloating because it helps to stimulate the abdominal organs and can improve gassy symptoms. A simple technique is called ‘apanasana’, a knees-hugged-to-chest pose. Simply lie down, inhale, place your hands on your knees, and bring and hold your knees to your chest. After 10 breaths, release the knees and repeat a few more times.


Aerobic exercise such as running, swimming, dancing, and brisk walking are all great methods of improving symptoms of constipation. These movements work well because by decreasing the time it takes for food to move through the large intestine, the amount of water absorbed from the stool into the body is limited, therefore making the stools softer.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Stress can be an influential factor in the severity of IBS symptoms. Calming and relaxing exercise such as yoga, tai-chi, and even meditation for just 10 minutes each day can dramatically reduce cortisol (stress chemical) levels and increase feelings of happiness which can make bouts of IBS more comfortable to handle.

To meditate, sit upright on your cushion or chair, tilt your chin as though looking downwards, inhale and exhale only through your nose, and bring your focus to your breathing as this allows you to have a clear mind that’s free from distraction.

With digestive health issues, more slow-paced exercise is useful at reducing stress and allowing our inner processes to move more naturally. Higher intensity exercise that can improve muscle growth can also lead to an improvement in digestion and metabolic rate over a period of time. If symptoms worsen, it is recommended to stop and consult your GP.


A campaign to increase general public awareness, prevention and therapy for digestive disorders.

This year it was held on Friday, May 29. Organised by the World Gastrointestinal Organisation , it focused on Heartburn.

Heartburn is one of the symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) which is increasing worldwide due to the increasing prevalence of obesity.

GERD has a significant impact on health-related quality of life