Let’s be honest: pooping on the regular just feels better. However, staying regular is not always an easy thing. Our diet, stress, medication, and staying inactive can lead to constipation. So how do we get things moving and grooving down there? While diet can certainly help, incorporating some key fitness moves can also help your toilet troubles.
“Movement is highly beneficial when it comes to things like digestive health,” personal trainer and health coach Hannah Daugherty tells SheKnows. “So in order to keep your bowels moving efficiently and have healthy poops, exercise is key!”
So whether you’re an avid exerciser or someone who prefers to keep it low-key, the following bowel-friendly exercises are sure to get your skin glowing and the poop flowing.
Try Some Cardio
“Running, jumping, swimming, biking, and walking are all wonderful activities that help increase blood flood, and the corresponding intake in water and decreased levels of stress can all help to boost the digestive system,” says Daugherty.
Bliss Out With Yoga
“Certain yoga poses are terrific for proper bowel function,” yoga teacher Stephanie Fowler tells SheKnows. “Gentle twists like a supine twist aid in moving food through your digestive system and cleansing these abdominal organs by expelling waste. It’s like an inside-the-body deep organ massage!”
- Lie down on the floor (or even your bed).
- Bend one knee toward your chest and let your opposite hand guide your knee across your body toward the floor.
- If your legs are short or your mobility won’t allow for the knee to touch the floor, just tuck a pillow or folded up blanket underneath your knee so it’s not hanging in the air.
- Try to keep both shoulders on the ground and maybe form a “cactus” or “goalpost” with your arms.
- Stay here for 1-3 minutes and then switch sides slowly.
Seated Spinal Twist
Start in a seated position and imagine your body in a 90-degree angle with your torso one part, and your legs forming the other side of the angle.
- Lift one leg, bend the knee, and place the foot on the outside of the thigh on the floor.
- Arms rest by your hips.
- Inhale your arms up in front of you (pacing the movement to your in-breath if you’d like) to an overhead position, twist your torso gently toward the opposite of your foot, and exhale arms down with your back hand behind you and your front elbow on the inside of your knee.
- It is important to keep this twist fairly gentle — do not torque your torso.
- Option to gaze straight ahead or to look over your shoulder — gently and without straining.
- Stay here for a round of 3 to 5 deep breaths.
- Lie down on the floor (or bed).
- Bend both knees and bring them toward your chest (option to just do one leg at a time).
- Hug your knees into your chest and relax.
- Stay here for 1 – 2 minutes.
- Come to a seated position on your shins with your big toes touching.
- Keep your knees together for a deeper stretch on your lower back or spread them for more room for your belly — either option is fine.
- Rest your forehead on the floor and stretch your arms out on the floor in front of you maybe walking your fingertips away from your body as much as is comfortable.
- Breathe deeply and maybe even open your mouth and sigh out your exhale.
- Stay here for 1 – 2 minutes.
Explore With Diaphragmatic Breathing
“Your anal sphincter (butthole) is part of your pelvic floor muscles, which is why seeing a Pelvic Floor PT who specializes in pelvic floor muscle therapy is a good idea if you have any trouble down there, “ Sara Reardon, PT, DPT, WCS, BCB-PMD, and owner and founder of The Vagina Whisperer and NOLA Pelvic Health, tells SheKnows.
Reardon suggests any exercises that help to relax the pelvic region and stimulate blood, like diaphragmatic breathing.
“Diaphragmatic breathing increases oxygen to our tissues, and we need good blood flow for muscle function and tissue function,” she says. According to Reardon, diaphragmatic breathing helps to reduce sympathetic nervous system activity associated with stress. Stress from new responsibilities, pain, or disability can inhibit the ‘rest and digest’ signals, which includes signaling to poop. “We tend to get a better signal for a bowel movement when we are relaxed. So diaphragmatic breathing can assist in this way.”
Reardon says you can apply diaphragmatic breathing as an exercise several times throughout the day for several minutes at a time, in prep for going to the bathroom, and also while seated on the toilet when it’s time to go.
Here’s how to do it: Lay down or sit comfortably supported. On each inhale, allow the rib cage and belly to inflate (Inhale = Inflate). On each exhale, allow the rib cage and belly to recoil (or flatten) naturally. Try to breathe as slowly and deeply as possible without strain. You should find that the more time you spend breathing, the slower and deeper you can comfortably breathe.
When in doubt, Squat it Out
“Jump squats promote the downward movement of your poop,” Bianca Kamhi, yoga teacher and nutrition coach, tells SheKnows.
Move from a squat position with feet hip distance apart, knees over toes and squat. Upon your upward motion, add a jump). Kamhi recommends doing 10-15 of them. “That should do the trick!”