Constipation becomes more common as you age, and strikes women more often than men. It can be caused by underlying medical conditions or something as simple as stress, poor diet or lack of exercise. Exercise stimulates your body in many ways -- it relieves stress, elevates your mood and gets your blood pumping, which warms up your muscles. Although any exercise can stimulate a bowel movement, certain types that target your abs may be more effective.
A 30-minute bout of cardio can get your blood pumping and stimulate a bowel movement fairly quickly. Walking or jogging at a moderate pace is sufficient, but avoid jogging if you have an upset stomach as a result of constipation. Drink plenty of water before, during and after your session -- besides keeping you hydrated, the water will also help lubricate your intestines.
Working the ab muscles in a rhythmic fashion can stimulate a bowel movement by increasing the blood flow to the gut, and triggering peristalsis. This can help push stool through to the colon a bit more quickly than it would have otherwise. Crunches, reverse crunches and butterfly crunches are effective choices.
Pilates workouts put a huge demand on your core for the entire workout, and force you to breathe deeply through discomfort. The near-constant contraction of the abs combined with the tightly controlled movement of the limbs can stimulate the bowels in much the same way as ab work. The breathing techniques can help you relax and focus when nature finally calls. Try the double leg stretch, leg circles or teasers for thorough results.
Like Pilates, belly dancing focuses on your core muscles. The difference is that the muscles are used in an undulating way that mimics the natural contractions of the intestine, and the continuous motion adds a cardio element. Do camels, belly rolls and small hip circles -- you'll be urging the stool down through the colon with every contraction.
Yoga combines breath work, meditation and a "kneading" action on the abs to stimulate the bowels. The breath work teaches you to focus, the meditation helps you relax and the poses can increase blood flow to the area and loosen up the works. Try sun salutations, alternate bow to boat, or do downward dog to plank to cobra, then reverse. The repeated opening and closing of the core may trigger intestinal contractions that can get things moving once again.