Exercise May Aid Digestive Ills in Obese Adults

Susan Farley
Published Online: Thursday, December 1, 2005

The results of a study published in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology assert that obese adults may be less likely to suffer from abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and other gastrointestinal problems when they exercise, as opposed to not exercising. While researchers were unable to make a clear correlation between exercise and digestive problems, they do believe that adverse symptoms can be alleviated through exercise. Similar studies have shown that overweight and obese people are more likely to suffer from digestive disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and it is not yet clear whether excess weight or diet/exercise habits are the cause. The study article demonstrates that the higher body mass index a person has, the greater likelihood there is of cramping, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation, theoretically brought on by eating and exercise habits. Exercise, the authors found, appeared to ease these digestive symptoms. These findings were based on data from 983 overweight people enrolled in a weight-loss study. IBS was prevalent in 13%, and another 20% reported trouble with abdominal pain, while bloating with diarrhea affected 25% of the participants. Among those people who reported exercising, however, there was a lower incidence of digestive problems. According to lead author Rona L. Levy, PhD, it is possible that exercise eases such symptoms through effects on the digestive system or, less directly, through psychosocial benefits—perhaps by helping people to put less focus on their symptoms. More research is needed, Dr. Levy added.

Ms. Farley is a freelance medical writer based in Wakefield, RI.

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