How to Exercise with IBS

Man sitting on a bicycle.
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Question: How can I exercise without making my IBS worse?


Although the research on the relationship between IBS and exercise is somewhat inconclusive, exercise does have a well-documented reputation for reducing the results of stress on the body. Since there is a relationship between psychosocial stress and IBS, any activity that reduces stress should help to reduce IBS symptoms. So, good for you for trying to exercise in spite of your IBS.

Many people worry that the intensity of exercising will set off IBS symptoms.  For the most part, exercise should not affect your symptoms in a negative way. 

One major exception is intense exercise such as running, as this has been associated with diarrhea symptoms of frequent, loose bowel movements and stomach cramps, a condition called runners' diarrhea.  Luckily, there are things you can do to reduce your risk.  Here are some suggestions:

  • Avoid eating two hours before exercise.
  • Avoid caffeine or hot drinks before exercising. Both have the potential for speeding up contractions.
  • Avoid eating fatty or gas-producing foods prior to exercise.
  • Try to time your workouts so you exercise at the times when your intestines are quieter.

If your predominant IBS symptom is urgent diarrhea, you may find that your body can handle less intense exercise such as walking, swimming, weight training or yoga. 


Endurance Sports Nutrition (2007) Eberle, S.G. Human Kinetics.

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