Medically referred to as gastroesophageal reflux disease, acid reflux occurs when the acidic contents of the stomach backflow into the esophagus. Typically, acid reflux involves a painful burning sensation in the chest. Although GERD can be traced to a wide variety of causes, certain exercises can trigger an episode of reflux. When you have acid reflux, select low-intensity exercises that keep you in an upright position. Additionally, avoid eating two to three hours before exercising.
Since bicycling allows you to stay in an upright position, it can be a safe and asymptomatic exercise for sufferers of acid reflux. Cycling can be performed indoors or outdoors. When cycling indoors, choose a stationary bike that allows you to remain in an upright position. When cycling outdoors, avoid bumpy terrain as the up-and-down motions could irritate your reflux. Whether you are cycling indoors our outdoors, avoid hunching forward on the bicycle. This position places excess stress on the stomach, which can force the stomach contents into the esophagus. For this reason, you should also avoid indoor cycling classes that require students to lean forward on the bicycles.
Yoga and Pilates
With their gentle stretches and slow movements, yoga and Pilates can often be easily incorporated into a GERD sufferer’s life. However, the routines will need to be modified to avoid triggering an episode of reflux. Avoid poses that require you to lie down, bend forward at the waist or invert your body. Although it may seem as though these restrictions rule out all yoga and Pilates poses, there are still several poses you can attempt. For example, Chair, Mountain, Tree, Crane and the Warrior sequence can all be used for a yoga routine. During a Pilates session, get your workout with the Plank, Saw, Side Leg Kicks and Cat poses.
Walking is an excellent exercise for people with acid reflux. As with cycling, you can walk indoors or outdoors. Whether you walk on a treadmill, around a track, across a beach or down the sidewalk, the exercise does not involve excessive movement of the stomach and should not trigger reflux. If you need a more challenging workout, carry hand weights or incorporate hills into your daily walk. Although it is important to stay hydrated, avoid drinking too much water during your walk since walking will cause the stomach contents to slosh around slightly. If your stomach is filled with water, this sloshing could easily lead to reflux.
Exercises to Avoid
Along with knowing which exercises are safe for acid reflux sufferers, it is also important to know which exercises to avoid. As a general rule, avoid any exercises that require you to be horizontal such as in swimming. When the stomach and esophagus are level with one another, stomach contents are much more likely to reflux into the esophagus. Also, avoid exercises that require you to bend forward or jump up and down. These exercises might include jogging, high-intensity sports, sit-ups and crunches.
- Acid Reflux-Heartburn-GERD.net: Can Exercise Cause Acid Reflux?
- National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse: Heartburn, Gastroesophageal Reflux (GER), and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
- ShapeFit: Pilates Instructional Guides -- Exercise Photos of Pilates Poses & Positions
- Yoga Journal: Yoga Poses
- Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.