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How Walking Can Help Relieve Constipation

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For individuals who are dealing with constant constipation due to medications, stress, or lack of fiber, can walking exercise help encourage regular bowel movements?

How Walking Can Help Relieve Constipation

Walking For Constipation Assistance

Constipation is a common condition. Too much sitting, medications, stress, or not getting enough fiber can result in infrequent bowel movements. Lifestyle adjustments can regulate most cases. One of the most effective ways is to incorporate regular moderate-vigorous exercise, encouraging the bowel muscles to contract naturally (Huang, R., et al., 2014). This includes jogging, yoga, water aerobics, and power or brisk walking for constipation alleviation.

The Research

A study analyzed middle-aged obese women who had chronic constipation over a 12-week period. (Tantawy, S. A., et al., 2017)

  • The first group walked on a treadmill 3 times a week for 60 minutes.
  • The second group did not engage in any physical activity.
  • The first group had greater improvement in their constipation symptoms and quality of life assessments.

A gut bacteria imbalance is also linked to constipation issues. Another study focused on the effect of brisk walking versus exercises that strengthened core muscles like planks on intestinal microbiota composition. (Morita, E., et al., 2019) The results showed that aerobic exercises like power/brisk walking can help increase intestinal Bacteroides, an essential part of healthy gut bacteria. Studies have shown a positive effect when individuals engage in at least 20 minutes of brisk walking daily. (Morita, E., et al., 2019)

Exercise Can Help Decrease Colon Cancer Risks

Physical activity can be a significant protective factor in decreasing colon cancer. (National Cancer Institute. 2023) Some estimate the risk reduction to be 50%, and exercise can even help prevent recurrence after a colon cancer diagnosis, also 50% in some studies for patients with stage II or stage III colon cancer. (Schoenberg M. H. 2016)

  • The best effects were obtained through moderate-intensity exercise, such as power/brisk walking, about six hours per week.
  • Mortality was reduced by 23% in individuals who were physically active for at least 20 minutes several times a week.
  • Inactive colon cancer patients who began exercising after their diagnosis had significantly improved outcomes than individuals who remained sedentary, showing that it is never too late to start exercising.(Schoenberg M. H. 2016)
  • The most active patients had the best outcomes.

Exercise-Related Diarrhea Prevention

Some runners and walkers experience an overly active colon, resulting in exercise-related diarrhea or loose stools, known as runner’s trots. Up to 50% of endurance athletes experience gastrointestinal problems during intense physical activity. (de Oliveira, E. P. et al., 2014) Prevention steps that can be taken include.

  • Not eating within two hours of exercising.
  • Avoid caffeine and warm fluids before exercising.
  • If sensitive to lactose, avoid milk products or use Lactase.
  • Ensure the body is well-hydrated before exercise.
  • Hydrating during exercise.

If exercising in the morning:

  • Drink about 2.5 cups of fluids or a sports drink before bed.
  • Drink about 2.5 cups of fluids after waking up.
  • Drink another 1.5 – 2.5 cups of fluids 20-30 minutes before exercising.
  • Drink 12-16 fluid ounces every 5-15 minutes during exercise.

If exercising for over 90 minutes:

  • Drink a 12 – 16 fluid-ounce solution containing 30-60 grams of carbohydrates, sodium, potassium, and magnesium every 5-15 minutes.

Professional Help

Periodic constipation may resolve with lifestyle adjustments like increased fiber intake, physical activity, and fluids. Individuals who are experiencing bloody stools or hematochezia, have recently lost 10 pounds or more, have iron deficiency anemia, have positive fecal occult/hidden blood tests, or have a family history of colon cancer need to see a healthcare provider or specialist to perform specific diagnostic tests to ensure there aren’t any underlying issues or serious conditions. (Jamshed, N. et al., 2011) Before engaging in walking for constipation assistance, individuals should consult their healthcare provider to see if it is safe for them.

At Injury Medical Chiropractic and Functional Medicine Clinic, our areas of practice include Wellness & Nutrition, Chronic Pain, Personal Injury, Auto Accident Care, Work Injuries, Back Injury, Low Back Pain, Neck Pain, Migraine Headaches, Sports Injuries, Severe Sciatica, Scoliosis, Complex Herniated Discs, Fibromyalgia, Chronic Pain, Complex Injuries, Stress Management, Functional Medicine Treatments, and in-scope care protocols. We focus on what works for you to achieve improvement goals and create an improved body through research methods and total wellness programs. If other treatment is needed, individuals will be referred to a clinic or physician best suited to their injury, condition, and/or ailment.


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References

Huang, R., Ho, S. Y., Lo, W. S., & Lam, T. H. (2014). Physical activity and constipation in Hong Kong adolescents. PloS one, 9(2), e90193. doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0090193

Tantawy, S. A., Kamel, D. M., Abdelbasset, W. K., & Elgohary, H. M. (2017). Effects of a proposed physical activity and diet control to manage constipation in middle-aged obese women. Diabetes, metabolic syndrome and obesity : targets and therapy, 10, 513–519. doi.org/10.2147/DMSO.S140250

Morita, E., Yokoyama, H., Imai, D., Takeda, R., Ota, A., Kawai, E., Hisada, T., Emoto, M., Suzuki, Y., & Okazaki, K. (2019). Aerobic Exercise Training with Brisk Walking Increases Intestinal Bacteroides in Healthy Elderly Women. Nutrients, 11(4), 868. doi.org/10.3390/nu11040868

National Cancer Institute. (2023). Colorectal Cancer Prevention (PDQ(R)): Patient Version. In PDQ Cancer Information Summaries. www.cancer.gov/types/colorectal/patient/colorectal-prevention-pdq
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26389376

Schoenberg M. H. (2016). Physical Activity and Nutrition in Primary and Tertiary Prevention of Colorectal Cancer. Visceral medicine, 32(3), 199–204. doi.org/10.1159/000446492

de Oliveira, E. P., Burini, R. C., & Jeukendrup, A. (2014). Gastrointestinal complaints during exercise: prevalence, etiology, and nutritional recommendations. Sports medicine (Auckland, N.Z.), 44 Suppl 1(Suppl 1), S79–S85. doi.org/10.1007/s40279-014-0153-2

Jamshed, N., Lee, Z. E., & Olden, K. W. (2011). Diagnostic approach to chronic constipation in adults. American family physician, 84(3), 299–306.

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Professional Scope of Practice *

The information herein on "How Walking Can Help Relieve Constipation" is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional or licensed physician and is not medical advice. We encourage you to make healthcare decisions based on your research and partnership with a qualified healthcare professional.

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Our information scope is limited to Chiropractic, musculoskeletal, physical medicines, wellness, contributing etiological viscerosomatic disturbances within clinical presentations, associated somatovisceral reflex clinical dynamics, subluxation complexes, sensitive health issues, and/or functional medicine articles, topics, and discussions.

We provide and present clinical collaboration with specialists from various disciplines. Each specialist is governed by their professional scope of practice and their jurisdiction of licensure. We use functional health & wellness protocols to treat and support care for the injuries or disorders of the musculoskeletal system.

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Dr. Alex Jimenez DC, MSACP, RN*, CCST, IFMCP*, CIFM*, ATN*

email: coach@elpasofunctionalmedicine.com

Licensed as a Doctor of Chiropractic (DC) in Texas & New Mexico*
Texas DC License # TX5807, New Mexico DC License # NM-DC2182

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Dr. Alex Jimenez DC, MSACP, RN* CIFM*, IFMCP*, ATN*, CCST
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