Constipation is an epidemic in America, affecting 16% of all adults. That means millions of people only poop three times a week—or less. It’s tough to pinpoint why so many of us are plugged up, but some common things that cause constipation include:
- Not eating enough fiber
- Stress and anxiety (most notably when you travel)
- Holding in your poop for too long
- Medical conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
However, one overlooked cause of constipation is physical inactivity. Sitting around all day during work or lounging on the couch all weekend puts your digestive system to sleep, according to researchers. But exercise jostles your intestines and stimulates blood flow in your gut. That’s why some health care professionals recommend exercises for people who experience chronic constipation.
“Movement will affect digestion because it will help move food contents, gas, and stool along the digestive tract,” gastroenterologist Sophie Balzora told Health.com.
Don’t worry, you don’t need to run a marathon or pump iron like Arnold Schwarzenegger to find constipation relief. This article has four simple exercises to kickstart your digestive system and keep you regular.
The 4 Best Exercises for Constipation Relief
From yoga to aerobic exercises, these techniques are known to ease constipation and promote regular bowel movements.
Cardio (short for cardiovascular exercise) is any activity that increases your heart rate. This stimulates your muscles and nerves, which aids the digestive process. The simplest form of cardio is walking, so if you’re constipated, go for a 20-minute walk.
If you’re in decent shape, your cardio options are pretty much endless: hiking, biking, swimming, jogging, and dancing are all great ways to kickstart a bowel movement.
Yoga is an ancient practice with many health benefits that synchronizes your body and mind. Don’t worry: you don’t need a yoga studio membership or expensive athleisure clothes to reap the benefits. A yoga mat will make these two poses more comfortable, but any soft surface will work.
- Lay flat on your back for your starting position.
- Gently pull both knees toward your torso, exhaling.
- Holding your right knee, extend your left leg outward along the floor and hold for one minute.
- Bring your knee back and repeat the movement with your right leg.
- Lastly, bring both legs back to your chest and hold for one minute.
Cat and Cow Pose
- Get on your hands and knees, with your knees directly below your shoulders.
- Engage your abdominal muscles.
- For the “cat” phase, gently exhale and push your spine upwards (like an angry cat) and hold for ten seconds.
- For the “cow” phase, inhale and arch your back into a U-shape, holding for ten seconds.
- Repeat this sequence ten times.
Pelvic Floor Exercises
Your pelvic floor refers to the group of muscles that support the bladder and bowel. According to Mayo Clinic, as many as half of people with chronic constipation have pelvic floor dysfunction (PFD), which impairs smooth bowel movements. The king of pelvic floor exercises are kegels.
From stronger orgasms, to incontinence treatment, kegel exercises are one of the most slept-on exercises every guy should do, regardless of their health. We have an entire guide to kegels, but here are the basic instructions:
- Tighten your sphincter muscles like you’re trying to hold in poop or pee (we know this sounds counterproductive, but hear us out).
- Hold for five seconds and rest for ten seconds.
- Repeat this sequence ten times.
“Often the pelvic floor muscles are in spasm and contribute to the problem of obstructed defecation,” says Dr. Khawaja Azimuddin at Houston Colon & Rectal Surgery. “Doing the exercises correctly and regularly can help relax the muscles. Relaxed muscles can lead to an easy bowel movement.”
Deep Breathing Exercises
Stress can play a big role in constipation, and a simple way to calm your nerves is to focus on your breath. Specifically, diaphragmatic breathing (AKA belly breathing) can relax your mind and your gut.
Here’s how it works:
- Lay on your back with your knees bent and a pillow behind your head.
- Put one hand on your chest and the other below your ribcage.
- Take a slow, deep breath in through your nose until your stomach moves out against your hand (your chest should remain as still as possible).
- Exhale through your mouth while contracting your abdominal muscles.
- Repeat the cycle for five minutes.
What if Exercises Can’t Relieve Your Constipation?
If you still can’t poop after jogging, yoga, kegels, and belly breathing, it’s time to take a trip to your local drugstore. Start by popping a probiotic or fiber supplement if you’re looking for a natural constipation remedy. Otherwise, go for an over-the-counter laxative like Dulcolax.
In the meantime, make sure you’re drinking plenty of water and eating a poop friendly-diet: fruit, whole grains, yogurt, and coffee.
If you follow these tips, your gut will be a ticking time bomb so be prepared for a dump of epic proportions. But most importantly, be prepared for the aftermath with flushable wipes and a DUDE Bomb to mask the stench.