Exercise and GERD

People who suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) tend to be very cautious about any activity that can exacerbate their symptoms. And for good reason—pain from heartburn can be annoying at best and debilitating at its worst.

So, what role does exercise play in the daily life of people who suffer from GERD? Do they run the risk of increasing symptoms when exercising? Can they expect to regret that three-mile walk, game of tennis or spinning class later in the day?

Medical experts suggest that GERD patients can actually benefit from a reasonable amount of exercise each day and that symptoms can sometimes improve. The important thing to remember is “moderation.” Training for a marathon or participating in the next triathlon could exacerbate symptoms, but professionals encourage those who suffer from heartburn to exercise at a moderately-intense pace for 30 minutes on most days.

Certain types of exercise are more likely to increase symptoms in patients with GERD. Running and other forms of exercise that cause consistent impact on the body can be culprits as well as too much intensity using abdominal muscles.

Experts suggest that patients may have to discover by “trial and error” what works for them, as each person will respond to exercise intensity differently. The important thing to remember is that people with GERD need the benefits that come from regular exercise just like everyone else.
Some suggestions from the field that help decrease the likelihood of exacerbated symptoms when exercising include: exercising on an empty stomach; making the choice for water over sports drinks and maintaining a high-fiber, low-fat diet.

GERD patients who are finding it difficult to manage a regular exercise regime without triggering symptoms can also speak with their physician about potential medication changes.

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