Exercise helps your body look better, feel better and function better. While that might not be surprising news, you might be surprised to find out that regular exercise even impacts your bowel function.
Exercise keeps you fit, maintains your weight and wards off several diseases, but regular exercise is an important way to help ward off and treat constipation as it can promote activity in the digestive tract.
Exercise and Bowel Movements
According to the Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust, normal frequency for bowel movements is between three times per day and three times per week. Lack of physical activity can contribute to constipation. Being sedentary can slow the digestive system, which means that stools are hard, difficult to pass or don't pass often. If you're battling constipation, your doctor might recommend lots of regular exercise to help get things going.
If you're already regular, you might find that you have more bowel movements as you kick up your exercise routine and your digestive system responds. The bowels respond even more when you're in a consistent exercise routine and exercising at the same time each day, according to the University of Michigan Health System.
Read more: 3 Ways to Understand Bowel Movements
Examine Your Diet
Exercise is part of a healthy lifestyle. So if you're starting to increase your exercise, you might have made other healthy lifestyle changes as well, including changes to your diet. If you're increasing your fiber intake and choosing more filling, lower-calorie foods to curb hunger and still lose pounds, the increase in fiber can lead to more frequent bowel movements. Foods that are high in fiber promote healthier bowel function, manage constipation and stimulate the bowels for more regular movements.
Be aware that increasing your fiber intake rapidly can lead to bloating and gas, which could increase you sense of urgency with bowel movements. Mayo Clinic recommends increasing your fiber intake over a few weeks until you reach your target amount.
Read more: Foods That Cause Hard Stools
Consider Water Intake
More exercise means more sweating, and that means you're probably drinking more fluids than normal. When you increase your fluid intake, you might experience more frequent bowel movements. Dehydration is a common contributor to constipation and increasing fluid intake is an effective constipation remedy. Exercising and increased fluid intake can cause an increase in bowel movements in someone who is already regular.
Healthy Bowel Function
There are many factors that influence bowel function. Being under emotional stress can trigger constipation. Since exercise is an effective way to alleviate stress, that can also cause an increase in bowel movements. Other factors that can help maintain healthy bowel movements include trying to have a bowel movement when you feel the urge, consistency in diet and exercise, and avoiding supplements and medications that might cause constipation.
See a Doctor
In rare cases, increased frequency of bowel movements can be a sign of an underlying medical condition. In addition to increased frequency, Mayo Clinic recommends that you consult a doctor if your bowel movements have changed in consistency; are loose or watery; contain blood, mucus or pus; or if they are accompanied by abdominal pain.
- University of Michigan Health System: Healthy Bowel Habits
- National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse: What I Need to Know About Constipation
- Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust: Healthy Bowel Guide
- Mayo Clinic: Constipation
- Mayo Clinic: Frequent Bowel Movements
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: Daily Bowel Care Program