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Walking Can Help with Acid Reflux! Here is how…

walking and acid reflux / a man is walking

Exercise-induced heartburn can deter people from doing exercise, or damage their esophagus if they ignore the pain.

For these reasons, acid reflux patients are often advised to stick to types of exercise that do not increase the risk of heartburn.

As walking is very unlikely to trigger heartburn, it is highly recommended to those who are affected by gastroesophageal reflux disease, shortly GERD.

In addition to posing virtually no risk, walking can help prevent or ease acid reflux symptoms.

In this article, we’ll provide 6 reasons why walking is an ideal exercise for those who are prone to heartburn.

Understanding Acid Reflux

Acid reflux occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) — a bundle of muscles at the low end of the esophagus — isn’t working as it should, allowing stomach acid to back up into the esophagus, says the Mayo Clinic.

This can bring about certain symptoms, such as heartburn and regurgitation.

It is totally normal to experience heartburn from time to time. However, some people experience heartburn frequently.

As per the Cleveland Clinic: Having heartburn more than twice a week over a period of several weeks may be a sign of gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD).

It is important to note that unmanaged long-term GERD can lead to serious health problems [1, 2, 3, 4].

 

Exercise and GERD

We all need to do some sort of physical activity or exercise to stay healthy. However, if you have GERD, doing exercise may hurt your health depending on the type of exercise you are doing.

Several studies show that strenuous exercise can worsen GERD and may trigger heartburn even in healthy individuals [5, 6, 7, 8, 9].

Exercises that may cause heartburn include:

  • Running
  • Sprinting
  • Weightlifting
  • Gymnastics
  • Jumping rope
  • Stair-climbing
  • Stomach crunches
  • Swimming (depending on the intensity and swimming stroke)

Note: Suffering from GERD doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t perform a high-impact exercise. If vigorous exercises do not trigger GERD symptoms in you, and if your doctor approves, then you can engage in vigorous exercises, points out the Canadian Society of Intestinal Research.

In conclusion, if high-impact exercises aggravate your GERD symptoms, it is better for you to do low-impact exercises such as walking.

 

6 Reasons Walking Is Good For Acid Reflux

Here is why you may want to consider walking regularly to tackle your acid reflux symptoms effectively.

Note that the below-given reasons also explain why walking might be more ideal than other physical exercises for people with GERD.

 

Walking is a Low-Impact Exercise!

High-impact exercises such as weightlifting, sprinting and running may increase abdominal pressure significantly.

The problem is that increased pressure on the abdomen can force stomach acid towards the food pipe, leading to heartburn [8, 11].

This is especially true if your LES (the lower esophageal sphincter) is weak or damaged.

Walking, as we mentioned above, is a low-impact exercise. It doesn’t influence abdominal pressure, therefore, unlikely to trigger heartburn.

Note: Tight-fitting workout clothes may induce heartburn by increasing pressure on your abdomen [12, 13].

 

Walking Aids Digestion

Medical experts agree that regular exercise can aid digestion and thus potentially help ease acid reflux symptoms [14, 15, 16].

High-intensity exercises can indeed help with digestion. However, they may also trigger heartburn by increasing abdominal pressure or relaxing the LES muscle.

Walking, on the other hand, is very unlikely to cause acid reflux, plus it can aid digestion.

Another advantage of walking is that it can be done even right after a meal whereas exercises like running and weightlifting can cause some side effects if done too soon after eating [17, 18].

 

Walking Helps Lose Weight

If you are obese or overweight you are almost three times more likely to develop acid reflux, according to several epidemiologic studies [19, 20, 21].

This piece of information shows the importance of maintaining a healthy weight to prevent acid reflux.

Regular exercise is undoubtedly one of the most effective ways to lose weight, along with a proper diet.

Interval training, running and jumping rope are more effective in terms of losing weight when compared to walking. However, these high-intensity workouts can also trigger GERD symptoms.

Brisk walking can help you lose weight without aggravating your acid reflux symptoms.

 

Walking and Breathing

According to the Canadian Society of Intestinal Research; doing a vigorous exercise cause you to take in large gulps of air, which can relax your lower esophageal sphincter (LES), and increase the risk of heartburn.

So now we know that gulping air during vigorous exercise may relax the LES muscle, therefore, may induce heartburn.

Considering that the average walking speed doesn’t cause you to breathe deeply and rapidly, walking wouldn’t affect the pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter and provide you with an opportunity to exercise without experiencing heartburn.

 

Walking Keeps You Upright

Sticking to types of exercise that keep you as upright as possible appears to be logical if you are prone to heartburn!

This is because remaining upright when exercising allows gravity to help keep stomach acid where it belongs.

That is to say, your body position as well, matters when it comes to preventing acid reflux.

The image below is a great example!

Although yoga is a low impact exercise, it nevertheless has certain poses that can put your stomach above your esophagus, which can increase the risk of having heartburn.

Since walking keeps your body upright and is rather low impact, walking is very unlikely to trigger heartburn.

 

Walking Helps Relieve Stress

Studies and patient self-reports suggest that stress and anxiety may potentially trigger or worsen acid reflux [22, 23, 24].

If stress aggravates acid reflux symptoms as suggested; then reducing stress should help people to manage acid reflux.

Scientific studies tell us that walking (especially in nature) can help reduce stress levels, thus contributing to mental health [25, 26, 27].

So you may better cope with GERD by taking regular walks as walking can help keep your stress levels down.

 

The Bottom Line

Walking is a great exercise that can be done nearly everywhere and doesn’t require any special equipment apart from a pair of shoes.

However, if you suffer from GERD, the value of walking can be even greater for you as we explained in this article thoroughly.

There is also a clinical trial that suggests walking after a meal may provide beneficial effects for people with GERD.

Simply put, walking may help prevent or ease acid reflux symptoms!

A word of caution: try to avoid foods that may trigger acid reflux symptoms, especially on the days when you will engage in vigorous exercise.

Remember, the best way to manage a medical condition is to work with a medical professional. So, we recommend you work with your doctor or qualified dietitian to manage your GERD. 


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