Fitness and Performance

IBS and Exercise

Sep 1 2017

Irritable Bowel Syndrome… an annoying, intrusive problem to have.

The ‘I’m so sorry’ look at your waiter and friends as you start your list of dietary requirements. Or just generally feeling uncomfortable all of the time, so much so it can even affect your sleep. These are all situations that many Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) sufferers experience.

Some facts about IBS…

Symptoms of IBS include:

  • Abdominal pain/cramps, bloating, chest pain, flatulence, nausea, diarrhoea, constipation, or alternating between both.
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome has also been linked with migraines, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, hypermobility and can occur after an infection.
  • Factors that can affect IBS symptoms include anxiety, depression, stress and certain food triggers.

Exercises for IBS

Evidence shows that moderate exercise daily is good at reducing IBS symptoms, for example, walking briskly for 20 minutes.

Pelvic floor retraining can help correct abnormal contractions of the muscles that allow us to empty our bowel and bladders.

Yoga, through its different poses and mind body soul mantra, can be very good at helping alleviate symptoms such as cramp and flatulence, whilst helping to reduce stress and anxiety.

Here are some poses which, when done daily, may help IBS:

  1. Cobra x 6 repetitions
  2. Cat pose x 6 repetitions
  3. Knee hugs x 3 repetitions
  4. Spinal twist x 3 repetitions each side
  5. Corpse pose x 3 minutes relaxation

General Tips about Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Have quality time with your food

If you’re like me, I’m busy and so will eat on the go or eat whilst either reading, writing or even just catching up social media. I end up gulping down my food like a pelican and before I know it, it’s gone. This can lead to bingeing as my body doesn’t have a chance to realise I’ve eaten anything.

– Sit down and eat your meals at the table
– Chew slowly and make sure you actually break down the food
– Put a small amount on your fork/spoon
– Try to keep your stomach relaxed
– Don’t get distracted with other activities. Just concentrate on how the food tastes

Manage that stress

Stress, anxiety and depression are linked with IBS and so control of these symptoms is important.

– Exercise
– Mindfulness using the Headspace App
– Mindful colouring books
– Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, which is available on the NHS.


Fibre is important, but for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) sufferers certain types of fibre can be difficult to digest and exacerbate symptoms. The Low FODMAP diet includes certain types of fibre whilst excluding others, and is a concept that has shown to be successful. I would recommend seeking advice from a registered dietitian before starting this diet to ensure you don’t miss out on a balanced diet. Please see the below link for more information on the Low FODMAP diet.

You can also eliminate aggravating foods, which can range from dairy to caffeine to beans. Keeping a food diary can be a good way to match your symptoms with possible triggers. Peppermint tea is a soothing tasty cup of goodness.

There is no cure for IBS, but don’t give up, there are techniques that can definitely help you take control of your symptoms.

Remember, you need to see your GP or a healthcare practitioner for a differential diagnosis of IBS, as the symptoms can also belong to other groups of disorders.

Article written by Finola Burrell, Chartered Physiotherapist