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Does Exercise Help With Acid Reflux?

By Darla Ferrara ; Updated August 14, 2017

Acid reflux is a common digestive problem that many people experience occasionally. Acid reflux is the backflow of acid in the esophagus. A more severe form of this condition is gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. Individuals with GERD have acid reflux more than twice a week. Exercise does offer some advantages to dealing with acid reflux, but will not cure the condition. Selecting the right timing and exercise can help to reduce the incidents of acid reflux.

Digestive System

The digestive system consists of a series of hollow organs that connect together and traverse vertically over half the body. Organs in the digestive tract include the stomach, intestines, esophagus and mouth. When you eat, food goes into the mouth and down the esophagus to the stomach. Nutrients absorb through the stomach before waste moves into the intestines. The interior of the stomach contains digestive acids from the pancreas and liver. It is this juice that backflows into the esophagus during an acid reflux attack.


When you have acid reflux, you feel a burning sensation in your chest and throat. There may be a sour taste in your mouth. Some people have moderate to severe chest pain with acid reflux. You may have a lumplike sensation in the throat. As acid comes up the throat, you may have the urge to cough.


Exercise is a vital part of maintaining health and controlling weight. One risk factor for GERD is obesity. Overweight individuals may have a higher incidence of acid reflux. For this reason, exercise can help with the condition. Losing weight may eliminate or reduce incidents of acid reflux. MedlinePlus recommends exercise as one way to combat GERD. You should not exercise after you eat, however. This may cause you to develop heartburn and trigger the reflux.

A July 26, 2010 article in "The New York Times" states that different forms of exercise may induce acid reflux. The more agitation for the exercise, the more likely you are to trigger the reflux. For example, running involves shaking the body. Select exercises that allow for the least agitation, such as riding a stationary bike. Body position also can be a factor. Reclined positions help to promote acid reflux. The best approach involves vertical positioning. Lying down on a bench can increase reflux.


Exercise by itself is not something that will eliminate acid reflux from your life, but it can help. Exercising at least once a week and increasing dietary fiber can help you avoid GERD. To avoid recurring incidents of reflux, maintain a healthy weight, eat small meals and avoid fried foods. Smoking affects the sphincter mechanism that keeps acid out of the esophagus and may cause acid reflux. If you find you have acid reflux frequently, talk to your doctor about drug treatments to control the condition. Chest pain often is part of acid reflux. If you have a pressing pain in the chest that radiates to your arm or jaw, this may be a heart attack and not acid reflux. If in doubt, seek medical help immediately.

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