20+ Best Exercises to Improve Gut Health
by Jelena Vulevic on Jul 10, 2023
Exercise is vital for good gut health and overall well-being. Gone are the days of gruelling workouts and long treadmill sessions as the only paths to fitness. We now understand that small steps and consistency bring significant benefits.
Our gut health affects digestion, immunity, and mental well-being, and exercise can be a powerful ally without exhausting workouts. By adopting a balanced, manageable, and sustainable approach, we can optimise our gut health.
In this article, we explore the best exercises for improving gut health, emphasising consistency, and finding joy in movement. Join us on a journey to a healthier gut and a happier life.
Take actionable steps towards optimal gut health. Find out if Y GUT sensitive is right for you.
Why exercise is good for gut health
Exercise for gut health and overall well-being is important and here is why it deserves a prominent place in your gut health journey.
Improving Gut Motility: Regular exercise stimulates digestive system movement, preventing signs of an unhealthy gut (eg. constipation, bloating, and other issues). It aids smooth food transit, optimising nutrient absorption and waste elimination for better gut function.
Reducing Gut Inflammation: Exercise reduces gut inflammation, a key factor in gastrointestinal disorders.
Synergistic Effects with Nutrition and Lifestyle Factors: Exercise synergises with gut health foods (a balanced diet rich in fibre and biotics). Maintaining a healthy weight, managing stress, and adequate sleep are also important to overall gut health, creating a powerful foundation for optimal gut function.
Supplementing Gut Health Efforts: Gut health supplements help to restore and maintain a healthy gut microbiota, enhancing the benefits when combined with exercise and a comprehensive approach.
By enhancing gut microbiota diversity, improving gut motility, reducing inflammation, and working synergistically with nutrition, lifestyle factors, and supplements, exercise becomes an essential component of optimal gut health.
The Best Exercises for optimal gut health
There are many exercises for gut health and below we have divided them by symptoms with suggestions on the best time of day to exercise, frequency and duration and links to suggested video tutorials:
Exercise for Abdominal Pain and Cramping:
- Gentle Stretching: Performing gentle stretches like the child's pose or the supine twist can help alleviate abdominal pain and cramping. Any time of day; perform stretches as needed for relief.
- Walking or Light Jogging: Low-impact exercises like walking or light jogging can promote blood flow to the abdominal area, relieving pain and reducing cramping. Any time of day; aim for at least 30 minutes daily or as often as possible.
Exercise for gut motility and constipation:
- Abdominal Massage: Gently massaging your abdomen in a circular motion can help stimulate bowel movements. Any time of day; can be done daily or as needed.
- Walking: Regular brisk walks can improve intestinal contractions and promote regular bowel movements. Any time of day; aim for at least 30 minutes daily or as often as possible.
Exercise for Diarrhoea:
- Gentle Yoga: Practising gentle yoga poses, such as the child's pose or the seated forward bend, can help calm the digestive system and reduce diarrhoea. Any time of day; practice as needed or when feeling well enough.
- Low-impact Aerobic Exercises: Engaging in low-impact exercises like swimming or cycling can help regulate bowel movements. Any time of day; aim for moderate intensity, 3-5 times per week.
Exercise for Gas and Bloating:
Deep Breathing Exercises: Deep diaphragmatic breathing can help relax the abdominal muscles, alleviate gas, and reduce bloating. Any time of day; practice as needed, especially before or after meals.
- Yoga Twists: Yoga poses that involve twists, such as the seated spinal twist, can help relieve gas and bloating by improving digestion. Any time of day; aim for 15-20 minutes daily or as needed.
Exercise for Fatigue and Brain Fog:
- Cardiovascular Exercises: Aerobic exercises like jogging, cycling, or swimming increase blood flow to the brain, improving cognitive function and reducing fatigue. Morning or early afternoon for an energy boost; aim for 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, 3-5 times per week.
- Mind-Body Practices: Activities like meditation, tai chi, or qigong can help reduce stress, enhance mental clarity, and combat fatigue. Any time of day; practice for at least 10-15 minutes daily, or as needed for relaxation and mental clarity.
Exercise for Heartburn:
- Yoga Inversions: Gentle inversions, such as the legs-up-the-wall pose or supported shoulder stand, can help alleviate heartburn symptoms by promoting proper digestion and reducing acid reflux. Morning or early afternoon on an empty stomach; practice for 5-10 minutes daily or as needed.
- Walking or Hiking: Taking a leisurely walk or going for a light hike can aid digestion and help reduce heartburn. Any time of day; aim for at least 30 minutes of low-intensity exercise daily or as often as possible.
Exercise for Nausea:
- Deep Breathing Exercises: Practising deep breathing exercises can help calm the nervous system, reduce nausea, and promote relaxation. Any time of day; practice as needed for relaxation and symptom relief.
- Tai Chi or Qigong: These gentle mind-body practices can alleviate nausea symptoms by improving overall well-being and promoting balance in the body. Any time of day; aim for at least 15-20 minutes daily or as needed.
Exercise for Food Sensitivities:
- Low-Impact Cardio: Engaging in low-impact cardiovascular exercises like swimming or cycling can help reduce inflammation and support overall gut health. Any time of day; aim for 30 minutes of exercise, 3-5 times per week.
- Strength Training: Incorporating strength training exercises using bodyweight or light weights can help build muscle and support the body's response to food sensitivities. Any time of day; aim for 2-3 sessions per week, allowing a day of rest in between.
Exercise for Mood Swings:
- Yoga or Pilates: These mind-body exercises can help reduce stress, improve mood, and support overall mental well-being. Any time of day; practice for at least 15-30 minutes daily or as needed for stress relief.
- Dancing: Engaging in dancing activities can boost endorphin levels, improve mood, and reduce stress. Any time of day; as often as possible for mood enhancement.
Exercise for Weight Changes:
- Interval Training: Incorporating high-intensity interval training (HIIT) can help promote calorie burn and support weight management. Morning or early afternoon for an energy boost; aim for 20-30 minutes of HIIT, 2-3 times per week.
- Resistance Training: Strength training exercises using weights or resistance bands can help build muscle, boost metabolism, and support healthy weight management. Any time of day; aim for 2-3 sessions per week, allowing a day of rest in between.
Exercise for Joint Pain and Inflammation:
- Low-Impact Exercises: Engaging in low-impact activities like swimming, water aerobics, or cycling can reduce joint stress while improving cardiovascular fitness. Any time of day; aim for at least 30 minutes, 3-5 times per week.
- Yoga or Tai Chi: These gentle exercises can help improve flexibility, strength, and joint mobility while reducing inflammation. Any time of day; practice for at least 15-30 minutes daily or as needed.
Exercise for Insomnia:
- Relaxation Techniques: Practising relaxation techniques like gentle stretching, deep breathing, or meditation before bed can promote better sleep. Evening or before bed; practice for at least 10-15 minutes daily to promote better sleep.
- Restorative Yoga: Performing restorative yoga poses, using props for support, can help relax the body and mind, promoting a restful night's sleep. Evening or before bed; perform restorative poses for 15-30 minutes, 2-3 times per week.
Remember, these exercises should be combined with a balanced diet, proper hydration, sufficient rest, and overall healthy lifestyle choices for optimal gut health. If you need to repair your gut, you may also want to consult with a healthcare professional.
How to start incorporating regular exercise into your daily routine
Getting started with regular exercise can seem overwhelming, but with the right approach, it can become a sustainable and enjoyable part of your daily routine. Here are some actionable tips to help you get started and build exercise into your lifestyle:
- Set realistic goals: Begin with achievable targets, such as exercising for 15 minutes three times a week and gradually increase the duration and frequency of your workouts.
- Find enjoyable activities: Explore different types of exercise and choose activities you genuinely enjoy.
- Start with manageable time increments: Begin with shorter workouts, even 10 minutes can make a difference. As you build consistency, gradually increase the duration and intensity.
- Incorporate exercise into your day: Look for opportunities to be active throughout the day, such as taking the stairs or scheduling active breaks.
- Set a schedule: Treat exercise as an appointment and add it to your daily or weekly schedule.
- Make it social: Exercise with friends, family, or join group classes for motivation and enjoyment.
- Listen to your body: Rest when needed and avoid pushing yourself too hard. Gradual progress is more sustainable in the long run.
- Celebrate milestones: Acknowledge your progress and reward yourself to stay motivated. Motivation is essential for maintaining a regular exercise routine.
Remember, the key is to start small, be consistent, and find activities that bring you joy. By incorporating exercise gradually and making it a sustainable part of your daily routine, you'll not only improve your gut health but also experience the numerous benefits that regular physical activity has on your overall well-being.
The benefits you will experience and when
While embarking on a regular exercise routine offers numerous benefits, it's important to remember that change doesn't happen overnight. Building a healthy body and experiencing the full benefits of exercise takes time and consistency. Here's a quick overview of the benefits and when you may start noticing them:
Increased energy levels: Expect an energy boost within a few weeks to a few months of consistent exercise.
Improved mood and mental well-being: Enjoy a mood lift and long-term mental health benefits after a few weeks or months of regular exercise.
Enhanced gut health and digestion: Subtle improvements in digestion can occur early on, with significant changes typically seen after several weeks or months.
Weight management: Notice changes in body composition and weight after a few weeks of regular exercise, alongside a balanced diet.
Stronger immune system: Experience immune system benefits within a few weeks, with long-term improvements observed after several months.
Better sleep quality: Improved sleep can be noticed after a few weeks, with more consistent results after a few months.
Exercise is an important ally to good gut health but remember that everyone's journey is unique, so be patient and consistent. As you prioritise regular physical activity, you'll gradually notice improvements in energy levels, mood, gut health, weight management, immune system, and sleep quality. By starting small, staying consistent, and finding joy in the process, you can achieve long-term improvements in your gut health and experience a happier, healthier life.
Take actionable steps towards optimal gut health. Find out if Y GUT sensitive is right for you.