Exercise and Heartburn: Techniques to Alleviate Exercise-Induced Heartburn
Maintaining a healthy weight is an important part of managing heartburn for many
people. The recommended guidelines from the American College of Sports Medicine®
and the American Heart Association suggest all healthy adults ages 18 to 65 need
moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity for a minimum of 30 minutes, five days
each week, or vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity for a minimum of 20 minutes,
three days each week.1
As always, check with your doctor before starting any type of treatment program.
For some people, physical activity can aggravate the symptoms of frequent heartburn.
This association between heartburn and exercise has been described in medical literature
for nearly 20 years.2 Usually with exercise-induced heartburn, the more intense
the exercise, the worse the symptoms.3
Quick Tips for Heartburn Relief
The following are basic tips for people concerned about the association between
exercise and heartburn:
Do Low-Impact Physical Activity
Running or jogging can increase the chances of
acid refluxHEARTBURN GLOSSARY Acid reflux: The backflow of stomach acid into the esophagus;
also known as gastroesophageal reflux (GERD).. Try low-impact
exercises such as riding a bike or walking, which should produce fewer acid reflux
Pursue Aerobic Exercises
If you have noticed that your symptoms get worse with intense exercise, try aerobic
activities such as swimming, cycling, and dancing, instead of resistance exercises
such as weightlifting.
Go Easy on the Abs
Crunches and sit-ups place added pressure on the abdominal muscles, which can aggravate
acid refluxHEARTBURN GLOSSARY Acid reflux: The backflow of
stomach acid into the esophagus; also known as gastroesophageal reflux (GERD)..
Do these activities in moderation.
Positions that reverse the natural gravity of digestion, such as headstands, can
trigger heartburn. In short, stay upright as much as possible.
Relax with Yoga
Yoga has been shown to help reduce stress, which can aggravate heartburn symptoms.
Look for positions that don't place emphasis on abdominal muscles or reverse the
natural gravity of digestion.
Dietary Tips to Help Prevent Heartburn
To aid digestion, drink plenty of water before and during your exercise routine.
Dilute Your Sports Drinks
The high concentration of carbohydrates found in most sports drinks may contribute
to heartburn. Most sports drinks provide between 60 grams and 100 grams of carbohydrates
per liter. Try diluting this in quarter intervals to see if a 3/4 strength or a
1/2 strength solution decreases your heartburn.
Decrease the size of portions you eat prior to or during exercise. Reflux is more
likely to occur when there is a lot of food in the stomach.
Limit Foods That Fan the Flames
Certain foods and beverages are more apt to cause heartburn than others. Moderate
your intake of citrus fruits and juices, chocolate, onions, peppermint, spearmint,
fatty or spicy foods, and caffeinated or carbonated beverages.
Time Your Meals
Exercising on a full stomach is not advisable, largely because it increases intra-abdominal
pressure, which contributes to heartburn. Wait at least two hours after a meal before
* It’s possible while taking Prilosec OTC. Use as directed for 14 days to treat frequent heartburn. Do not take for more than 14 days or more often than every 4 months unless directed by a doctor. May take 1 to 4 days for full effect. Not for immediate relief.
1 The American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association Physical
Activity and Public Health: Updated Recommendation for Adults. Circulation
2007;116;1081-93; originally published online Aug 1, 2007.
2 Clark CS, Kraus BB, Sinclair J, Castell DO. Gastroesophageal reflux induced by
exercise in healthy volunteers. JAMA 1989;261:3599-01.
3 Collings KL, Pratt P, Rodriguez-Stanley S, Bemben M, Miner PB. Esophageal reflux in conditioned runners, cyclists, and weightlifters. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2003;35(5):730-5.