Exercise improves digestion, reduces stress, and lowers weight. All of which can help in reducing the frequency of heartburn. Some exercises, however, can trigger heartburn.
Heartburn is caused by stomach acid refluxing into and irritating the esophagus. The lower esophageal sphincter (LES) is a ring of muscle that closes at the base of the esophagus to prevent stomach acids from refluxing. Certain foods can cause the LES to relax. These should be avoided before exercise. Pressure on the abdomen can also cause acid to push through the LES. This pressure can be caused by weight, movements and body position. Certain exercises are more likely to cause pressure on the LES than others. Your doctor, personal trainer, or fitness instructor can help you develop an appropriate workout routine that will accommodate your health conditions and lower heartburn risk.
Heartburn Inducing Exercises to Avoid
Strenuous exercises that cause labored breathing1 and those involving reclining, inversion, bending, squatting, lifting, or straining increase pressure on your LES allowing acid to reflux. These heartburn inducing exercises would include:
- Rigorous cycling2,3
- Lifting heavy free weights2,3
- High-impact aerobics
- Jumping movements
- Climbing stairs or stair stepping machine
Heartburn Friendly Exercises
Certain exercises are a problem if you suffer from chronic heartburn especially those that cause added pressure on the abdomen. If you are feeling susceptible to heartburn, save the more rigorous workouts for a time or day when you are having fewer heartburn signs. Instead, pick from exercises that will minimize the risk of heartburn. Consider the following choices that don’t tend to cause heartburn and remain as upright in position as possible when performing these exercises.
- Elliptical machine
- Stationary bike: Using a stationary bike will avoid bumps that would force stomach contents upward agains the LES. Recumbent bikes are the better choice of bike allowing the rider to be in a position that places less pressure on the abdomen than on the typical bike where the rider leans forward toward the bike handles.
- Light weight lifting using a machine instead of free weights
- Walking outdoors or on a treadmill
- Light jogging
- Low-impact aerobics
Exercise is very important to your wellbeing and for the reduction of heartburn, acid reflux and GERD. Stress, poor digestion, and being overweight are all factors that contribute to heartburn. Exercise will improve all three. If you suffer from exercise related heartburn, pick from the list of exercises that can reduce your chances of heartburn. It’s important to continue working out. As you improve upon your physical condition, you will likely experience fewer heartburn symptoms.
Pay attention to and be good to your body. If you follow the 14 tips for preventing heartburn during exercise, improve your diet, and reduce body fat to a healthy level, you will be eliminating the majority of triggers that contribute to heartburn allowing you a successful workout.
- US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health “Thoraco-abdominal pressure gradients during the phases of respiration contribute to gastroesophageal reflux disease.”
- US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health “Esophageal reflux in conditioned runners, cyclists, and weightlifters.”
- Newswise, Inc “Athletes at Greater Risk for Heartburn and GI Problems”