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 significantly with brisk walking and other physical exercise. Learn how much exercise you need to keep your colon healthy.

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. Health authorities say being inactive and sedentary are risk factors for constipation. The minimum recommended daily activity is 30 minutes per day of brisk walking most days of the week.

A study of middle-aged obese women who had chronic constipation placed them on a 12-week program that included a low-calorie diet and routine standard care for constipation. One group also engaged in a recommended amount of physical activity while the other group did not. The exercise consisted of treadmill walking three times per week for 60 minutes. At the end of 12 weeks , the group who exercised had much more improvement in their constipation symptoms and quality of life assessments than the group that didn't exercise.

Exercise Reduces Colon Cancer Risks Significantly

Reviews of studies say 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 percent 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 review of studies found a reduction in recurrence was as high as 50 percent in some studies for patients with stage II or stage III colon cancer.The amount of exercise that had the best effects amounted to about six hours per week of moderate-intensity exercise such as brisk walking. Mortality was reduced by 23 percent in people who were physically active for at least 20 minutes several times a week.

It's not too late to start exercising. The review noted studies where inactive colon cancer patients began exercising after their diagnosis. They also had far better outcomes than those who remained sedentary. More is also better as the most active patients had the best outcomes, on average.

Preventing Exercise-Related Diarrhea

Many runners and walkers find physical activity a little too effective on the colon and experience exercise-related diarrhea or loose stools, known as runner's trots. As many as 20 to 50 percent of endurance athletes have this problem. If you find that you have this problem, you can take steps to prevent it. Don't eat within two hours of exercise. Avoid caffeine and warm fluids before exercise. Limit high-fiber foods and those you know produce flatulence the day before endurance exercise. If you are sensitive to lactose, avoid milk products or use Lactase. You will still need to ensure you are well-hydrated before exercise and are drinking enough during exercise. Drink a large glass of water an hour before exercise and then don't drink until you are exercising. This gives your body time enough to pass any excess fluid.

A Word From Verywell

When you look at that amount of risk reduction, walking other other exercise 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. It's never too late to start walking.

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