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).
Exercise and GERD
We all need to do some sort of physical activity or exercise to stay healthy. However, if you have GERD, doing certain types of exercise may hurt your gastrointestinal tract.
Exercises that may cause heartburn include:
- Jumping rope
- 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
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.
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.
Walking Aids Digestion
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.
Walking Helps Lose Weight
This piece of information shows the importance of maintaining a healthy weight to prevent acid reflux.
Engaging in regular exercise is undoubtedly one of the most effective ways to lose weight, along with a proper diet.
When compared to walking; interval training, running and jumping rope are more effective in terms of burning calories. However, these high-intensity workouts can also trigger GERD symptoms.
Brisk walking, on the other hand, 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, consequently, 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 your lower esophageal sphincter and thus 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 very low impact, it is very unlikely to trigger heartburn.
Walking Helps Relieve Stress
If stress aggravates acid reflux symptoms as suggested; then reducing stress should help people to manage acid reflux.
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!
Try to avoid foods that may trigger acid reflux symptoms, especially on the days when you will engage in vigorous exercise. To know which foods are potentially risky and which are safe, consider working with a registered dietitian who can design a GERD-friendly diet for you.
Besides, do not forget to visit your doctor if you think you have GERD; that is to say if you experience acid reflux symptoms regularly for a long period of time.