Regular exercise can help food move through your digestive system, lower inflammation, and improve your overall health. But finding the right activity to aid digestion can be tricky, especially if you have a gastrointestinal (GI) disorder.
Here are five types of gentle exercise that may aid digestion and generally help you feel better.
For a lot of people, yoga is a spiritual practice. Also, the poses, breathing, and meditation all help to improve your physical and mental well-being.
In a 2016 study involving people with inactive or mild Crohn’s disease, researchers found that moderate exercise with yoga improved quality of life and stress levels with no adverse effects.
Most yoga poses are generally safe. But if you don't know how to do them correctly, you can injure yourself. You can start by learning a few poses each day. If you don’t know where to begin, there are plenty of apps and videos geared to beginners through advanced.
If you’re more of a group activity person, sign up for a class. This will also ensure that you’re performing poses correctly. Classes may last 60 to 90 minutes and meet several times a week. Here are some resources to help get you started:
- Daily Yoga - Workout & Fitness. This mobile app offers guided yoga classes with step-by-step instructions. You can also ask questions of the instructors, as well as compare notes and gain inspiration from other students.
- Find a Registered Yoga Teacher. This is a searchable database from the Yoga Alliance.
- Find a yoga instructor. This is a searchable database from the IDEA Health and Fitness Association.
Tai chi is an ancient practice involving a series of slow-motion movements and focused deep breathing. It’s a low-impact way to stretch and exercise.
While there’s room for more studies, research suggests that tai chi may improve the quality of life in healthy people as well as those with chronic illness.
To get the full benefit of tai chi, you have to do it right. You can learn from a video, but it might be more fun to join a class led by an experienced instructor. Learn more:
- Find a tai chi instructor. This is another searchable database from the IDEA Health and Fitness Association.
- Tai Chi 5 Minutes a Day. This video series is designed for beginners and offers the most basic movements you can do in just a few minutes.
- Tai Chi and Qi Gong for Health and Well-Being. This from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health takes you from introduction to cool down in about 15 minutes.
Deep breathing is an essential part of yoga and tai chi, but it can also stand alone as an exercise. Stress can impact your immune system, leaving you more vulnerable to health problems. Slow, deep breathing fills your lungs with oxygen and can help relieve stress.
This simple breathing exercise is a good starting point:
- Find a quiet, comfy place to sit or lie down.
- Take in a long, deep breath through your nose. Focus on the feeling of your chest and abdomen expanding as your lungs fill with air.
- Breathe out slowly through your mouth or nose. Do this for 10 to 20 minutes every day.
Once you get in the habit, try some other breathing techniques, such as:
- Breathe+ Simple Breath Trainer. This mobile app includes guided sessions that last from one minute to an hour.
- Relaxation Response. In this 17-minute guided meditation video from Mount Sinai Health System, you just close your eyes and follow along.
- Universal Breathing - Pranayama. This mobile app helps you practice breathing techniques and includes custom courses for beginners to advanced students.
When it comes to inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), moderate exercise can ease some symptoms of IBD. It’s also recommended to improve complications and overall quality of life. Strenuous exercise could exacerbate an inflammatory response, making walking a good choice.
If you haven’t exercised in a while, you can start with a brief walk around the block once a day and build from there. Here are a few tips to get the most out of your walk:
- Be aware of your posture. Keep your back straight, but not stiff.
- Let your arms swing freely.
- Step from heel to toe.
- Choose shoes with good arch support and thick, flexible soles.
- Set a schedule and plan your route.
- If it’s hard to keep motivated, invite someone to walk with you.
- If walking outdoors doesn’t work for you, try using a treadmill at home or the gym.
- If you miss a day, don’t stress out about it. Just start again tomorrow.
There are many ways to track your progress and keep things interesting. For example:
- ActivityTracker Pedometer. This mobile app lets you track your steps and distance when you carry your phone around.
- Spring Running Music. This mobile app lets you personalize your walking playlist to keep motivated.
- Walk Workouts & Meal Planner. This mobile app provides walking workouts based on your level of fitness, plus lots of tips and motivational cues.
We can all benefit from stronger abdominal and back muscles. Situps, abdominal crunches, and planks are all examples of core exercises. It’s really important to perform core exercises correctly to avoid injury to your back. A personal trainer can help point you in the right direction. Or you can learn from videos and apps such as:
- 12-Minute Seated Core Workout. This video provides step-by-step instructions for seated exercises to improve your core muscles.
- Daily Ab Workout- Abs Fitness. This mobile app helps work your abs in 5 to 10 minutes a day. It includes videos to show you how to perform the exercises correctly.
- Fitness Buddy: Gym Workout Log. This mobile app includes training plans by category, like core exercises.
Exercise is good for your overall health. But if you have a GI disorder, injury, or chronic health condition, talk to your doctor before starting a new exercise program. They can help you learn your limits and offer further insight into the benefits of exercise with your condition.
Once you've established an exercise routine that works for you, stick with it. You'll have to fully commit to your health and well-being to reap the benefits of exercise.