Brisk Walking Keeps Your Colon Healthy

Exercise is Good for Constipation and Reducing Colon Cancer Risks

Park Sign to Restrooms
Park Sign to Restrooms. Christopher Kimmel/Getty Images

Getting moving gets your colon moving, too. Research shows that you can relieve chronic constipation as well as reduce your risks of colon cancer by one third with brisk walking and other physical exercise.

30 Minutes a Day of Brisk Walking May Cure Constipation

Physical inactivity is a risk factor for becoming constipated. The National Institutes of Health says, "Exercising every day may help prevent and relieve constipation." With 41 million people in the U.S. suffering from constipation, that's good advice for everyone.

A study of inactive, middle aged people with chronic constipation put them on a program of 30 minutes a day of brisk walking. This dramatically cured a large percentage of them of constipation, whether or not they increased fiber and water.

Clinical reviews that look at many past studies say there is evidence that exercise can prevent constipation, although it is not completely convincing.

The Opposite Problem: Runner's Trots

Many runners and walkers find brisk physical activity a little too effective on the colon and experience diarrhea or loose stools. As many as 20-50% of endurance athletes have this problem, according to clinical reviews of studies. Find tips on how to prevent runner's trots.

Exercise Reduces Colon Cancer Risks Significantly - 30 to 50%

A study compared people who are average in their lifelong physical activity vs. those who were the most active. They found that the most physically active among us had 1/3 the risk of colon cancer, although the risk of rectal cancer was the same.

A review of studies in 2011 says that there is strong evidence that physical activity reduces the risk of colon cancer. Depending on the review, figures are given as high as a 50% reduction in risk.

As a result, the National Cancer Institute notes, "A lifestyle that includes regular physical activity is linked to a decreased risk of colorectal cancer," in its guide to colon cancer prevention.

It is interesting that exercise gets touted for prevention, while evidence is mixed as to whether you can reduce your risk with a healthier diet.

Exercise can also help prevent recurrence after a colon cancer diagnosis. A study found a 50% reduction in recurrence and mortality when patients engaged in six hours of moderate physical activity per week.

Keep Your Colon Happy - Get Walking!

When you look at that amount of risk reduction, it is something you can do for free, with no payments to drug companies or insurance plans. All it takes is motivating yourself to be physically active for 30 minutes per day.


Steindorf K, Jedrychowski W, Schmidt M, Popiela T, Penar A, Galas A, Wahrendorf J. PubMed Case-control study of lifetime occupational and recreational physical activity and risks of colon and rectal cancer., "European Journal of Cancer Prevention." August, 2005.

Source: De Schryver AM, Keulemans YC, Peters HP, Akkermans LM, Smout AJ, De Vries WR, van Berge-Henegouwen GP. Effects of regular physical activity on defecation pattern in middle-aged patients complaining of chronic constipation., "Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology" April, 2005

Martin D. "Physical activity benefits and risks on the gastrointestinal system." South Med J. 2011 Dec;104(12):831-7. doi: 10.1097/SMJ.0b013e318236c263.

Colorectal Cancer Prevention (PDQ) February 5, 2016. National Cancer Institute. Accessed February, 2016.

Meyerhardt, JA, Heseltine D, Niedzwiecki D, Hollis D, Saltz LB, Mayer RJ, Thomas J, Nelson H, Whittom R, Hantel A, Schilsky RL, Fuchs CS. "Impact of physical activity on cancer recurrence and survival in patients with stage III colon cancer: findings from CALGB 89803." Journal of Clinical Oncology 24. 2006. 3535-3541.