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Indigestion and Exercise

By Jill Leviticus ; Updated August 14, 2017

After eating a large meal, you may be tempted to exercise those extra calories away. Unfortunately, exercising soon after eating may cause an upset stomach and other symptoms that can quickly sabotage your workout. If you avoid exercising until your stomach is no longer full, you will help prevent a bout of exercise-induced indigestion.


Symptoms of indigestion include nausea, gas, heartburn, burping, diarrhea and an acidic taste in your mouth. You may feel the symptoms of indigestion in your stomach or in the upper part of your abdomen. You may be more prone to developing indigestion if you have an underlying intestinal disorder, such as a peptic ulcer or gallbladder disease, according to the Cleveland Clinic.


Heartburn and indigestion after exercise is a problem particularly common to people who have gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. GERD occurs when the sphincter at the bottom of the esophagus, the tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach, is weak or doesn’t close completely, allowing partially digested food and stomach acid to flow back into the esophagus. Exercises that put pressure on the stomach, such as sit-ups and crunches, or exercises performed lying on your back allow stomach contents to re-enter the esophagus.

Avoiding Exercise-Induced Indigestion

Wait at least two hours after eating before you exercise to help prevent indigestion symptoms. Any type of exercise that jars the stomach or includes movements that put your head and upper body in a downward position can cause indigestion when you exercise. Running, aerobic routines and weightlifting are known to cause gastrointestinal symptoms due to jarring, bouncing and jiggling of the body, and of increased abdominal pressure, according to the FitDay website. Choosing activities that provide aerobic exercise without jarring the stomach, such as swimming and biking, can help reduce indigestion. Modifying your exercise routine to avoid movements or postures that aggravate your indigestion can also be helpful.

Lifestyle Changes

Changing your eating habits can help you prevent indigestion and reduce the waiting time to exercise after eating. Eating five or six small meals per day, rather than three large meals, will reduce the amount of food in your stomach that must be digested. Avoiding spicy and fried foods and beverages that contain caffeine or alcohol may also help you prevent indigestion symptoms. If you are a smoker, you may find that giving up the habit helps alleviate heartburn and indigestion and makes exercising more comfortable. The American Gastroenterological Association reports that cigarettes decrease the ability of the lower esophageal sphincter muscles to work properly. If you suffer from GERD or another gastrointestinal condition, your doctor may recommend that you take medication that neutralizes stomach acid and reduces acid production.

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