Exercise is Beneficial for Patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome
People who have irritable bowel syndrome may often be hesitant to exercise for fear of being caught in a location without access to a restroom. However, research indicates that physical activity is beneficial for those with IBS by improving the severity of symptoms and protecting against symptom deterioration.
Moderate To Vigorous Exercise Can Improve Symptoms
Irritable bowel syndrome is not a disease, but rather a disorder of the large intestine (colon) that causes disorganized, sometimes violent contractions leading to a change in bowel patterns such as constipation or diarrhea. Sufferers also often experience abdominal discomfort or pain.
Research from Sahlgenska University Hospital in Gothenburg (Sweden) suggest that patients with IBS participate in moderate to vigorous physical activity for 20 to 30 minutes, three to five times each week, for a reduction in these common complaints.
The scientists, led by Elisabet Johannesson, a registered physiotherapist, and Riadh Sadik, a senior physician, randomized 102 IBS patients into one of two groups. The first were asked to exercise and the other maintained their usual lifestyle. Both groups received supportive phone calls during the study.
Each participant was asked to rate their different IBS complaints at the start of the study and again three months after. The group with the unchanged lifestyle had an average decrease of symptoms by about 5 points, likely due to the supportive component of the study. However, the group who engaged in moderate to vigorous exercise reported an improvement of symptoms by an average of 51 points.
The researchers also showed that in 23% of the group who did not exercise experienced deterioration in symptoms, compared to only 8% in the active group. “This suggests that even a slight increase of physical activity may reduce symptoms and protect from deterioration,” said Dr. Sadik.
During exercise, the bowel typically quiets down, according to the Jackson/Siegelbaum Gastroenterology group. If one exercises regularly and develops more physical fitness and conditioning, the benefits are usually long-lasting. Another positive component of exercise is its ability to relieve stress, which also affects irritable bowel.
University of Gothenburg (2011, January 25). Exercise improve symptoms in irritable bowel syndrome. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 25, 2011. Published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology.