When your bowels are backed up, an ab workout might do wonders to get things flowing.
Indeed, exercise, in general, increases colonic motility (which accelerates transit through the gut) and stimulates your abdominal muscles to help stool move into the rectum, Nikhil A. Kumta, MD, a gastroenterologist and associate professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, tells LIVESTRONG.com.
But core-based exercises can be especially helpful to combat constipation. Here's why: Since your abs are activated during bowel movements (and when you pass gas), engaging these muscles through core training can assist in stool passage, especially when used in combination with a fiber-rich diet and adequate water intake, Dr. Kumta says.
So the next time your bathroom habits are at a halt, try these three ab-focused workouts that'll simultaneously strengthen your six-pack muscles and help you produce regular poops.
If you experience symptoms including weight loss, bloody stools, iron deficiency anemia or worsened GI symptoms at night, or you have a family history of colon cancer or inflammatory bowel disease, your constipation might be the sign of a more serious health issue that requires an evaluation by a medical professional, Dr. Kumta says.
1. 10-Minute Pilates Core Workout With Amy Jordan
There's no better way to set your abs ablaze than this Pilates-based plank series. You'll hold 10 deep core-activating plank variations for about a minute each, using deep breathing to lengthen the spine and intensify the contraction of your abdominal muscles on your exhale.
Incorporating breathing techniques can also relieve constipation since it helps relax the anal sphincter, Dr. Kumta says.
2. 10-Minute At-Home Core Workout With Luke Milton
Ab exercises that involve sustained twisting of the core muscles are particularly effective for promoting poop, Dr. Kumta says. And this 10-minute core circuit, which consists of tummy twisting moves like bicycle kicks, will stimulate your stool's movement down your digestive tract.
And if you really want to get things moving, go for a short stroll after this ab workout. Walking for 30 minutes a day has been shown to improve constipation and abdominal bloating symptoms, Dr. Kumta says.
3. 10-Minute Core Workout With Ingrid Clay
All you need is a mat for this quick workout that cycles through 10 ab-focused exercises in 10 minutes. Isometric holds heat up your core between ab-wringing exercises, like sit-up twists, split leg V-ups and Russian twists, that simultaneously burn out your obliques and speed up stool passage through your gut.
For an even bigger bowel movement boost, you can stack this core routine with a lower-body workout. Moves like squats, donkey kickbacks and glute bridges strengthen the pelvic floor. And improving coordination of the pelvic floor muscles assists with evacuation of stool, Dr. Kumta says.