Your favourite workout could be making you constipated

One of the most common ways to help activate bowel movements is exercise, as the colon responds well to physical activity. However, it appears that high intensity interval training (HIIT), a workout that has been a fitness trend since 2014, could actually cause digestive problems.

This is according to functional nutrition programme instructor Dr Robin Berzin who, in an interview with MBG, said she found that many patients who regularly do HIIT workouts suffer from digestive problems.

“One patient of mine was doing high-intensity interval training almost every day, and it was actually overly stressing her body,” Berzin told the publication. 

HIIT and constipation

HIIT is a smart way to integrate fitness in your life because it gives you maximum results in minimum time if you’re willing to push your limits. Many people prefer it to a more steady-paced exercise regime like cardio. For example, a 20 minute-session of HIIT will give you the same kind of afterburn as a steady 35 to 40 minute cardio session, according to Dr Michele Olson, professor of exercise science at Auburn University at Montgomery, Alabama. It can be done almost anywhere without weights or equipment, so it’s not hard to see why it’s considered a magical exercise formula.   

For many people, HIIT is a no-brainer because of its ability to build muscle, burn fat and improve cardio in a short amount of time. However, due to its intensity, this workout causes stress to the gut and does not allow time for relaxation, which can lead to digestive problems.

“What we know is that for the gut to move, it has to relax. And when you’re in a state of stress all day, and then do high-intensity interval training over and over again, it may never give the gut that time to relax, digest and move,” Berzin explained.

Turning to low-intensity workouts

The good news, however, is that you don’t have to give up HIIT altogether. Incorporating low-intensity restorative workouts into your fitness routine could combat the stress your gut experiences. Yoga, Pilates and walking are some activities that will allow your digestive system to move and relax, aid digestion and ultimately keep your digestive tract healthy.

It is generally advised that you do not do any high intensity workouts immediately after having a meal, as it will end up being counterproductive. Not only will you feel sluggish, but your food won’t have time to digest, which can then lead to constipation. If you’re going to eat before HIIT, make sure it’s something nutritional and light – such as half a banana and some yoghurt, fitness trainer Helle Hammonds told Women’s Health.  

Image: Supplied

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