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Causes of Abdominal Pains During Exercise

By Gail Logan

Exercising is not always easy, but it should not be painful. If you are experiencing any abdominal pain during your exercise routine, please review the possible causes listed below and take the appropriate action to prevent further discomfort or injury. These suggestions should not be used in place of a visit to your doctor, who will be able to pinpoint more positively the cause of your abdominal pain during exercise.

Types of Pain

Generally, abdominal pain as a result of exercise has comes from two sources--the gastrointestinal tract or the abdominal muscles themselves. The types of problems detailed below will center on exercise-induced abdominal pain, not regular pain that only intensifies during exercise. The former can usually be reduced to a few causes, while a more regular stomach pain could be a result of any number of medical problems.

Gastrointestinal Problems

If the problem lies in your GI tract, there will usually be other symptoms, such as belching, flatulence and irritable bowels. Because during periods of intense exercise, blood is routed away from the digestive system to other areas of the body, any food that is in the stomach or intestinal tract will not be digested as quickly, thereby causing pain. Try not to eat anything heavy two hours before a workout and only a light snack at least 30 minutes before you begin exercising. Also, disturbance in the GI tract during exercise can often be a result of dehydration. Be sure to load up on fluids before you begin exercising, and drink at least 1/2 cup of fluid for every 15 minutes of exercise during your workout.

Muscle Problems

When you exercise, especially if you are doing an abdominal routine, your muscles break themselves down. When you work a muscle, the fibers undergo hundreds or thousands of tiny micro-tears. When they repair themselves, they become stronger. If you have been involved in an abdominal exercise routine and are experiencing pain, your muscles may still be repairing themselves from your last training session. If you attempt to work your abdominal muscles too soon after a recent routine without giving the muscles a chance to repair themselves, those muscle fibers will continue to tear, causing discomfort. If this could be the cause of your pain, give yourself at least 24 hours to rest in between workouts to be sure that your muscles can rest and rebuild properly.

Reduced Air Supply

During cardiovascular activity or intense weight lifting, your abdominal muscles may begin to cramp and cause pain. This is often a result of not enough oxygen being carried to the muscles. Simply slow down and take in deeper breaths.


Depending on the root of the abdominal pain you are experiencing, you have a range of options. First, be sure to drink plenty of water before and during exercise. Next, make sure that you are giving your muscles enough time to rest in between workouts. Third, if you still experience abdominal pain, either slowly down or massaging the area where the pain is located will temporarily alleviate the pain.


Again, pain that is not just exercise-related and is centered in the stomach area and becomes increasingly severe may be a result of a more serious GI-related problem. Consult your doctor for treatment.

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