Exercises for Digestive Health

Close to two-thirds of adults in the U.S. say that they have trouble with digestive symptoms. These issues, which can include everything from heartburn to nausea to bloating to diarrhea, can majorly disrupt your life and make it harder to do the things you want to do.

Experts often recommend frequent exercise as a way to keep you feeling good and to make sure your digestive organs are all working as they should. Any type of regular physical activity can help support healthy digestion. However, the following types of activities may be more effective when it comes to reducing tummy troubles and fixing certain bathroom issues.


Yes, we know — you were probably looking for more exciting exercise options that make you feel like you’re making a big impact right away. However, going on a stroll around the block may be one of the best things you can do for your gut. And yes, we do mean simply walking. You won’t get additional benefits by cranking up the intensity and turning your stroll into a run. In fact, you’ll probably feel worse.

Many studies have found that walking can be great for digestion. It can help empty food out of your stomach more quickly, which can reduce symptoms like heartburn and abdominal pain and help your body absorb more nutrients from your food. A short walk may also prevent large blood sugar spikes and minimize gas while relieving discomfort and feelings of fullness.

Walking may also help relieve symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and reduce your risk of digestive diseases like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and colon cancer.

They say timing is everything — and this includes scheduling your walks. Hit the pavement right after your meal for optimal results. A bit of light-intensity exercise immediately after eating has the biggest effects on controlling your blood sugar levels and may make losing weight easier. Even just a couple of minutes of walking can be enough to produce results!


Building a regular yoga practice has long been known to help with IBS and IBD. It can lessen digestive symptoms and improve the well-being of those living with these conditions.

Yoga may also help those without a diagnosed digestive disorder. There is a strong connection between your brain and your gut, meaning that stress, anxiety, and other mental health conditions can manifest as digestive symptoms and chronic inflammation in your intestines. Yoga’s stress-fighting abilities can help you relax both mentally and physically and lead to better digestion.

For improved digestive health, some yoga experts recommend poses or movements that involve twisting or stretching your abdominal area. This may help massage your internal digestive organs. Think of poses like:

To try yoga, see if your local gym or YMCA offers classes, or sign up for an online lesson. You can also find plenty of free, beginner-level yoga videos on YouTube that are specifically designed to help with gut symptoms.

Abdominal Exercises

So, you’re feeling uncomfortable and bloated. Sit-ups probably don’t sound too great at the moment, but doing exercises that strengthen your core muscles may help prevent these symptoms in the future.

Your core muscles — the muscles throughout your abdomen, back, pelvis, and hips — can affect digestion. These muscles help control pressure levels inside of your abdomen and allow you to have bowel movements. Strengthening these muscles may reduce bloating or discomfort. It can also help you better control when you go to the bathroom and avoid accidents. Additionally, core exercises can help food move through your intestines more quickly, which may prevent constipation.

Make sure you are using good form when completing these exercises! To check yourself, follow along with a video made by a personal trainer. For more core strength, try movements like:

You can also work out along with a core workout video or find an app that helps you plan and track your daily ab workout. 

Which Activities Can Help Improve Your Digestion?
Improve Your Digestion

Building a Routine That Promotes Healthy Digestion

If your digestive health isn’t where you want it to be, try out each of these exercises to see whether any of them work for you. You may want to try each activity out a few times before deciding how effective it is. Combining a few different exercises into a daily routine may be your best bet for helping you feel your best.

Exercise alone won’t help treat all digestive issues. Talk to your healthcare team if you have ongoing or worsening symptoms. Your doctor can diagnose any serious health issues and help you find other treatments that help you to feel better.

By Mo McNulty

Maureen McNulty studied molecular genetics and English at Ohio State University. She has spent over a decade researching the genetic causes of — and possible treatments for — multiple types of cancer. Maureen is now a medical writer who is passionate about helping people use science to enrich their lives.