It can't be said that exercise is a cure for all bloating, because it isn't. There are many causes for bloating, and to alleviate bloating long term, most of them will need tackling at the cause. However, getting your body moving more is always a great idea, and when it comes to bloating, even helping to reduce puffiness, or take some of the stress out of it, can be a huge relief.
We spoke with Doni Thomson, Personal Trainer and Gym Manager at PureGym Aberdeen (opens in new tab), to find out more about the links between bloating and whether exercise can in fact help with lessening a bloated tummy.
What is bloating, and why is it happening to me?
When your stomach feels full, and usually slightly uncomfortable, it may be that you're experiencing bloating. Many people note that their bellies look a lot bigger than usual, and more round when they are bloated. Bloating can come hand in hand with some stomach pain, rumbling and tenderness.
A lot of the time, people will experience bloating when they have eaten a lot of food (opens in new tab), or have a lot of gas in their gut. But, lots of food and drink, like fizzy drinks and vegetables, can cause bloating. For females, the menstrual cycle can also leave you feeling bloated.
Particular foods are more likely to give you a bloated stomach than others (opens in new tab). This list of foods includes oligosaccharides, which are found in wheat, onions, garlic, legumes, and beans — so think curries, and rice bowls, as well as disaccharides, which you’ll spot in lactose, and monosaccharides, in some fruits like apples and pears.
It’s important to note that excessive bloating can also be caused by other underlying conditions such as coeliac disease, irritable bowel syndrome and food intolerances. So, if you notice a change in your bloating habits, it may be worth seeing a doctor.
How could bloating be helped by exercise?
Excessive bloating is often closely related to your nutrition, for example having an intolerance to a food group, or not eating enough fiber which can lead to constipation. If you regularly experience major or painful bloating, it’s always best to see your doctor.
That said if you are feeling bloated as a result of overeating, being active after a meal can help to aid digestion and reduce how bloated you feel. Regular exercise can also help to prevent constipation (opens in new tab), which can be a cause of feeling bloated.
Does getting moving really help with bloating?
The best way to manage bloating is making sure you are active, eat enough fiber, and drink enough water. Stopping eating just before you are full can help to prevent bloating after a meal, but if it’s too late and you’re experiencing post food bloat, taking part in gentle activity can help to reduce discomfort and ease the bloating quicker.
There is no single best exercise to help manage bloating. Any form of movement that encourages activity might help to reduce discomfort, but it’s better to stick to something gentle as high intensity exercise may make you feel worse. Walking, yoga, swimming or low impact cardio like cycling are all good options.
What exercises can help with bloating?
Resisting the urge to lie down is crucial to helping your bloat. Even though you may feel like it is all you want to do when you're bloated, to get instant relief, lying down can keep gas trapped, and prevent it from leaving your body.
Cardio can be great for bloating as it helps to get rid of gas, which is one of the main causes of bloating. Cardio will help to move your digestion along, and so going for a brisk walk or jog can really help.
Yoga is also a great workout for helping with bloat. You can increase your blood flow and circulation, to help get things moving again, with extended poses and moves like the torso twist. While poses like the downward dog and cat-cow can help to relax tension. Yoga is also great for targeting stress, which can be the main cause of bloating — so you’ll tackle the problem at the cause!