When constipation hits, your first instinct may be to curl up in the fetal position and clutch your stomach. However, getting off the couch and moving your body is much more beneficial. In fact, physical activity is one of the most effective lifestyle hacks for loosening your bowels and keeping yourself regular.

Although almost any exercise can be useful in helping stool pass more easily through your intestines, the following four methods are the ones most commonly recommended for people living with chronic constipation.

Cardio

Cardio exercises that get your blood pumping are probably the simplest form of physical activity to help avoid constipation. Whether it’s running, swimming, cycling, or dancing, a cardio workout will increase your breathing, boost your heart rate, and stimulate your bowels.

Even if you don’t feel up to a full-on workout, just going for a brisk 30-minute walk can do wonders for your digestive system. As an added bonus, cardio is one of the best ways to relieve stress, which can be a major risk factor if you experience chronic constipation.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all adults get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week. If possible, try to do 30 minutes a day at least five times a week.

Yoga

Practicing yoga is another great way to help get your bowels moving and relieve constipation. Certain yoga poses work to massage the digestive tract and help to move stool through your intestines, particularly those that involve sustained twisting of your torso or crunching of your stomach muscles.

Here are three easy poses you can try to ease constipation:

Wind-relieving pose

As the name suggests, this pose can help to ease the discomfort of bloating and gas, as well as stimulate your bowels and improve overall digestion.

  1. Start by lying flat on your back with your legs fully extended in front of you.
  2. Slowly raise your right knee up to your chest and hold it in place with your arms for a count of 20 breaths.
  3. Release your knee and let your leg extend fully in front of you again.
  4. Perform the same action with your left leg for another 20 breaths.
  5. Repeat the process once more, this time holding both legs to your chest.

Seated twist

This is a great pose if you’re new to yoga. It’s very easy to do!

  1. Sit comfortably on the floor with your legs fully extended in front of you.
  2. Bring your left knee up so that your foot rests flat on the ground close to your buttocks.
  3. Twist your core by placing your right elbow on the opposite side of your left knee and looking over your left shoulder.
  4. Hold this pose for five deep breaths, and then release.
  5. Repeat the same action on the opposite side of your body.

Supine twist

This is another twisting pose that can help to massage your digestive tract and stimulate blood flow to your stomach muscles.

  1. Lie flat on your back and bring both of your knees up to your chest.
  2. Stretch your left leg out straight.
  3. Keeping your shoulders pressed against the floor, move your right knee across your body to the left and look toward your right.
  4. Hold this position for 20 breaths and then release.
  5. Repeat the same process on the opposite side of your body.

Pelvic floor exercises

Your pelvic floor is the layer of muscles at the bottom of your pelvis that include your bladder and bowel. By working these muscles out, you can build up their strength and help them to push stool through your colon more easily.

Here’s a quick and easy exercise routine for strengthening your pelvic floor muscles:

  1. Sit comfortably on the floor with your knees shoulder-width apart.
  2. Imagine that you are trying to stop yourself from passing gas, and squeeze the muscles around your anus as tightly as possible.
  3. Hold for five seconds, and then release and relax for a count of 10.
  4. Repeat this process five times.
  5. Now do the same thing, only at half strength.
  6. Repeat this process five times.
  7. Finally, squeeze and release the muscles tightly and quickly for as many times as you can before you get too tired to continue.

Deep breathing exercises

Practicing deep breathing is another easy way to help improve your digestive functioning and relieve any stress that may be contributing to your constipation. The great thing about deep breathing exercises is that they only take a few minutes and can be performed virtually anywhere.

This quick deep breathing exercise is called the 4-7-8 technique:

  1. Sit in a chair with your back straight and your hands resting comfortably in your lap.
  2. Breathe out through your mouth, exhaling completely.
  3. Close your lips and inhale through your nose for a count of four seconds.
  4. Hold in your breath for a count of seven seconds.
  5. Exhale completely through your mouth for a count of eight seconds.
  6. Repeat these steps three more times for a total of four complete cycles.

Takeaway

Although it may require a bit of trial and error to find out which of these exercises work best for you, staying active is an important part of managing your constipation and reducing your stress levels.

Always consult with your doctor before beginning any new exercise regimen to avoid causing undue strain on your body. If you feel like you’re experiencing any health issues that weren’t present before trying out a new physical activity, stop using that method and contact your doctor as soon as possible.