You Won’t Expect This Popular Exercise To Help You Poop (But It Really Works) – Health Digest

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We know certain foods can help get our guts moving, but did you know we can prime ourselves for a bowel movement with exercise, too? Of course, physical activity of any variety is good for our gastrointestinal health by boosting blood flow, stimulating digestive enzymes, and kicking the nerves of our endocrine system, nervous system, and muscular system into gear (via Alabama Colon & Rectal Institute). Yet there’s one poop-enhancing workout, in particular, that may help those dealing with constipation: core muscle exercises.

As outlined in a 2021 study published in the Journal of Exercise Science and Fitness, our core muscles are those housed around the lumbar spine, abdomen, hips, and pelvic region. Many ab exercises specifically target the diaphragm, pelvic floor muscles, and transverse abdominal muscles, and may include crunches, sit-ups, planks, and more. When performing these exercises, abdominal pressure increases, which has been purported to activate the gastrointestinal tract and help move stool through the colon — but does it really work?

Ab exercises may help alleviate symptoms of constipation

While it’s estimated that anywhere between 2% and 35% of adults in certain regions of the world — including North America — are affected by constipation, prevalence rates of constipation in children stand anywhere from 0.7% to 29.6% (via Best Practice & Research Clinical Gastroenterology). In a 2013 clinical trial published in Colorectal Disease, researchers set out to determine whether a combined intervention of ab exercises, diaphragmatic breathing, and belly massage can relieve symptoms of chronic constipation in children and youth ages 4 through 18.

Participants in the physiotherapy group underwent isometric abdominal muscle training, diaphragmatic breathing exercises, and abdominal massage for 40 minutes twice a week under the care of a professional physiotherapist. Compared to kids who were only given laxative medication, patients who received the physiotherapy treatment pooped more frequently on a weekly basis after six weeks’ time. The researchers concluded that there may be benefits to implementing physiotherapy in the treatment of constipation.

Try these 3 ab exercises to help you poop

This sounds like good news for those of us feeling clogged up who don’t mind putting in a few crunches each day, yet some studies have found no existing relationship between core muscle training and constipation relief. Findings of a 2021 study published in the Journal of Exercise Science and Fitness, for example, showed that after 12 weeks of core-strengthening exercises, no increases in colon transit time were observed in young female participants.

That being said, many health experts remain proponents of ab exercises as a means of boosting gut motility. “When you exercise, you’re jostling around and you’re also contracting those core muscles, which helps push the poop forward,” gastroenterologist Dr. Niket Sonpal told Well+Good. If you’re willing to give it a try, experts at Alabama Colon & Rectal Institute recommend picking a few days of the week to do eight to ten sets of crunches or sit-ups. Even better if this is done on an empty stomach, but an hour or two after eating works, too. Healthnews reports that planks are also great for jump-starting digestion. Whatever your ab exercise of choice, just remember to pair it with proper hydration, a fiber-rich diet, and other healthy habits to help keep you regular.

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