Constipation often causes difficulty or pain when you go to the bathroom — and to make matters worse, it can be an, ahem, uncomfortable subject to discuss, making relief even more elusive. The good news is that doing everyday things like drinking more water, getting more fiber by eating more fruits and vegetables, reducing stress, and moving more can help ease constipation. Exercise, for example, has been shown to be helpful in improving the efficiency of the digestive tract by decreasing the amount of time it takes food to move through the large intestine. But you don’t have to be a Zumba warrior or exercise fanatic to get things moving in the right direction — try these easy cardio, yoga, and pelvic floor exercises to ease constipation today:
Moving more goes a long way when it comes to staying regular. Exercise increases your breathing and heart rate and stimulates your muscles and nerves, which helps your body function more efficiently. In addition, the lifestyle changes that exercise brings about may naturally result in a higher water intake, an improved diet, and reduced stress. The best part? Whether it’s jogging, Zumba, or dancing in the living room, any exercise will do! Or, just walk.
Walking Workout Warm up by walking at your normal pace for about 5 minutes, then pick up the pace. Work up to at least 30 minutes of brisk walking a day. Bring the pace back down at the end of your walk and do some gentle stretching. If you aren’t able to do a full 30 minute walk, spread mini-walks throughout your day. Walking 10 to 15 minutes several times each day can be just as effective.
Certain yoga poses can be helpful because they reduce stress and increase blood flow to the digestive tract, which stimulates the intestines to contract. Here are two easy stretches you can do morning, afternoon, or night:
Cat and Cow Pose Come to a hands and knees position on the floor, placing your knees underneath your hips and the crease of your wrists directly underneath your shoulders, palms on the floor. Your fingers should be pointing forward. Engage your core.
- Cat Phase: Gently exhale and tuck your tail under, using your abdominal muscles to push your spine up toward the ceiling, making the shape of an angry cat. Hold this position for 10 to 30 seconds as you lengthen your neck, allowing your head to reach toward your chest.
- Cow Phase: Using the abdominal and low back muscles, inhale as you tip your tail toward the ceiling, increasing the arch in your mid and low back. Allow the abdomen to stretch toward the floor. Hold this position for 10 to 30 seconds before returning to your starting position.
Repeat the sequence of moves 10 times.
Wind Relieving Pose Start by lying flat on your back with a neutral spine. Bring your right leg up toward your body, bending the knee. Using your arms, gently pull the right leg into the right side of your body. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds, then release the leg. Repeat the exercise on the left side, then repeat with both legs drawn in toward the chest.
Pelvic Floor Exercises
The pelvic floor is a group of muscles that supports the organs within the pelvis and lower abdomen. If you have pelvic floor dysfunction, you may be having difficulty coordinating the muscles necessary to go to the bathroom. Here are two moves to try:
Deep Squat Pose With feet slightly wider than hip width apart, keeping your ankle and knee in a vertical stack (shin is vertical), hinge back at your hips and lower your butt back and down toward the ground. You may want to use a chair initially to help as you start to get those gluteal muscles firing. Go down as far as you’re able while maintaining the vertical shin position. You may notice that your upper body moves forward quite a bit more than you may be used to with a regular squat. That’s okay! Return to start and repeat 10 times.
Forward Lunge Keep your upper body straight with your shoulders back and relaxed, chin up (pick a point in front of you to stare at so you don’t keep looking down). Engage your core and step forward with one leg, lowering your hips until both knees are bent at about a 90-degree angle. Make sure your front knee is directly above your ankle, not pushed out too far, and make sure your other knee doesn’t touch the floor. Keep the weight on your heels as you push back up to starting position. Perform 5 repetitions, holding the lunge position on your last repetition for 5 seconds while you really concentrate on contracting the gluteal muscles of your back leg. While still in the lunge position, perform 5 shallow pulses. Repeat on the opposite side.
Jennifer Bayliss is a fitness expert and coach at Everyday Health. She is a certified strength and conditioning specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association, and an AFAA certified personal trainer. She has a BS and MS in exercise science.
5 Super-Simple Exercises To Ease Constipation was originally published on Everyday Health.