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Exercise-Induced Gastrointestinal

Whenever one visits a doctor for any kind of general sickness like fever, stomach upset, weight problems, etc the doctor invariably asks whether we are getting adequate exercise on a regular basis. The need for and benefits of exercising regularly cannot be overstated.

The proverb says that ‘excess of anything is bad’ and the same holds true for exercises also. If one gets down to exercising in excess then there are every possibility that he or she will harm his or her intestinal health very badly. Let us make it clear that while adequate exercise is necessary for having a healthy digestive system, excess of exercising will do harm to the digestive and excretion system of the person (1).

Exercise-Induced Gastrointestinal

Concern Surrounding Exercise-Induced Gastrointestinal Syndrome

Research shows that while exercise is very closely linked to good health and is highly recommended for the cardiovascular musculoskeletal well-being, going in for very strenuous exercise is traceable to deteriorating gastrointestinal health. Thus, while exercise is advised for general health benefits yet the studies caution about excessive workouts leading to severely affected digestive system in many, if not most of the cases. The situation gets worse for people who are already suffering from digestive disorders – the medical term being gastrointestinal tract problems (2). The research finding also makes a scary observation that even moderate – meaning not too high – intensity and short duration workouts may also lead to compromising or affecting the gastrointestinal tract which in turn may cause a variety of gastrointestinal symptoms.
As if that was not scary enough, it gets noted in research, that all the studies on finding a connection between exercise amount and the effect on the digestive system have been conducted on subjects who are seasoned in strenuous workouts. This means that the people on whom the studies were carried out are already within the ‘excess’ work out zone that may have built up enough resistance already (2). What do the ordinary people, meaning the ones who are in the cluster of beginners do? How do they go about achieving their muscular body without compromising on their digestive system?

On one hand, we are told that one must exercise for having good health and in the same breath; it is being told that excess exercise will create tummy problems. What do researchers say about the proper balance point between no exercise and over exercise?

Here again, studies and literature available are either delightfully vague or menacingly jargon loaded. For common people like us, the situation is slightly difficult because by the time we have struggled through the difficult medical terms all our enthusiasm for workouts has evaporated. Again, whatever research has been done is with people who have been exercising for quite some time and are reasonably experienced in workouts. Beginners need not fret about over exercising right now (3).

Moderate Exercise Can Benefit Patients with Gastro-intestinal Disorder

The net takeaway from all the discussion is to avoid too strenuous exercise which is one way of saying that those dream six packs abs are not meant for us. However, it will be in our favor to have some exercise which will keep us fit. Research says that workouts that last for more than two hours are likely to be considered as excessive. But at the same time, the kinds of strain are not elaborated. We may be enjoying light walking or jogging for over two hours and that cannot be overdoing it (3).

Apparently, there is no ‘one size fit for all’ kind of recommendation available from any research. Whatever guidelines have been given (mainly with regard to the rate of metabolism) is a little difficult to comprehend and therefore the balance point is still elusive. More research is required for coming out with definite solutions, especially for beginners to follow – the present study findings give an uneasy stomach even without stepping into a gym.

Moderate exercise can fetch good results to patients with GI disorders like irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel syndrome.

The only way by which beginners can move is by taking professional help. While each one wants a figure like Arnold (of Terminator fame) the risks enumerated is a little daunting. A professional coach together with a sports doctor will be able to chart out the ‘path of least’ difficulty for achieving that six packs abs of our dreams (3).


Since the warnings are in relation to over exercising the main focus then gets shifted to finding the amount of exercise one needs to put in. It may be expected that at this saddle point the gains would be maximum while the adverse effects would be minimum. It is felt that instead of deciding on the time and efforts to be put in during exercising sessions by reading up blogs, it would be much safer (though slightly expensive) to get a proper trainer and a sports doctor to guide you with your workouts.

Life is all about balancing; we had heard about balanced diets, now we get to know about the importance of balanced exercising.


  1. Costa RJS, Snipe RMJ, Kitic CM, Gibson PR; Systematic review: exercise-induced gastrointestinal syndrome-implications for health and intestinal disease, Epub 2017, 46(3):246-265. doi: 10.1111/apt.14157 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28589631
  2. Costa RJS, et al; Too much exercise can cause acute, chronic GI issues, Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2017;doi:10.1111/apt.14157 https://www.healio.com/gastroenterology/intestinal-disorders/news/online/%7B7847f64b-32b3-49eb-99da-968daa15ec1d%7D/too-much-exercise-can-cause-acute-chronic-gi-issues
  3. Costa RJS; Snipe RMJ; Kitic CM; Gibson P R; Systematic review: exercise-induced gastrointestinal syndrome—implications for health and intestinal disease, Monash University, 2017, DOI: 10.1111/apt.14157 https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/apt.14157
Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:March 25, 2021

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