Does Running Help Digestion? Tips for Running With Digestive Issues

Does Running Help Digestion?

Running and Digestion Problems

People suffering chronic gastrointestinal issues may occasionally face an onset of symptoms during or after vigorous exercise. In general, exercising regularly supports long-term health and may even ease symptoms over time, but individual episodes will vary.

Why Does Running Cause Short-Term Negative Effects on Digestive Health?

Digestive health is complex, with many factors working together. The digestive tract is long, with about 30 feet of material for food to pass through. The digestive process itself starts in the mouth and continues into various stages all along this course.

Even if you have not eaten before you start your exercise, you may find running has temporary negative impacts on your digestion. These generally include things like bloating, gas, and perhaps acid reflux (“heartburn,” known as GERD when it is chronic.) Symptoms are rarely severe, but can include diarrhea and other acute complications.

The motion of running naturally produces brief “shocks” that can inhibit digestive speed while potentially encouraging more digestive gas. Although risks of running are low, you should discontinue your exercise session if gas cramping becomes painful.

Ultimately, running is more likely to help with the symptoms of digestive upset than worsen them. As you lose weight, less pressure is placed upon the various parts of your digestive system. This, in turn, may benefit your symptoms both in exercise and in day-to-day life.

How Does Running and Exercise Benefit Various Digestive Disorders?


Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a complex of problems with recurrent abdominal pain, diarrhea, and constipation. Although the causes are not well understood and the condition is believed to be permanent, exercise can help by promoting weight loss. Certain forms of strength training may help strengthen the abdominal wall and support easier digestion overall.


Constipation is characterized by difficulty emptying the bowels, usually as the result of hardened feces. Exercising may, in some cases, help to facilitate the digestive process and move materials through the bowels. If you have a history of constipation, it is important to focus on discovering an exercise program of appropriate rhythm and intensity to meet your needs.


GERD – Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease – takes place when stomach acid or bile irritates the upper digestive tract as a result of moving up through the stomach and toward the throat. It is diagnosed as a result of acid reflux episodes that are chronic and severe.

Although exercise has less direct impact on GERD than on other digestive conditions, its effects may still be felt over time. As overall digestion improves, GERD episodes are less likely to take place. Likewise, GERD may also respond to weight loss caused by exercise.

Tips for Running When You Have Digestive Problems

  • Time It Right: It takes about 6-8 hours for most food to proceed through the digestive tract and make it into the colon, where further absorption takes place. Balance your nutritional needs before exercise with the need to maintain reduced stomach contents by exercising closer to the end of this cycle.
  • Stay Hydrated: As a general rule, hydration helps your body maintain all its systems more effectively. Keeping an eye on hydration is especially important while exercising, too. Be sure to have plenty of water on hand and to sip throughout your session, not just before or after.
  • Avoid Heavy Foods: Some foods, such as red meat, take longer for the body to process. High-protein foods generally act this way. Of course, certain exercise plans benefit from a protein-rich diet, so consider a meal with proteins after your exercise rather than before.

Contact us today to learn how Gotham Medical Associates can help with digestive issues. Fill out the form on this page to request an appointment or call 212.227.3688 to learn more.

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