With the holidays in the rearview mirror and those New Year’s resolutions about improving your health weighing heavy on your mind, you can take comfort in knowing that many other people are focusing on a single goal this time of year: Getting active. And for those of you who may have overindulged during the festive season, your digestive system is likely calling for a change in diet. But did you know that physical activity and gut health are intrinsically linked?
Constipation tends to be common in people who are sedentary – whether in extreme examples of people who are bed ridden or in more familiar examples of the garden variety couch potato. Part of this has to do with the way things move through our digestive system. Smooth muscles, like those lining our arteries and those that control the contraction of the pupil in our eyes, direct the movement of material through the intestines. They contract slowly along each section, narrowing the diameter of the tube to force the digested food further down the digestive tract. They then relax, allowing more food to enter, before repeating the process.
Simply getting up and going for a walk can help get things moving. Increasing your heart rate and promoting circulation can be enough to boost your intestinal muscles. And because your intestines are packed inside your abdominal cavity, any movements that change the shape of your tummy can increase pressure on your intestines. This can help jump-start slow moving guts by amplifying the force of those intestinal muscles.
Getting out for a walk or jog – even a short one – can be a great first step towards improving your gut health. Not only will you be burning some calories, but you will also be helping keep your internal transit system on schedule.