Running From Heartburn
There is a strange relationship between acid reflux and exercise. On one hand, exercise can help manage your weight, which is a known trigger for heartburn problems. Certain studies have even found that short bursts of moderate activity can reduce your risk of developing GERD, especially if you don’t already have chronic heartburn and acid reflux.
On the other hand, jumping around is not going to help tame your heartburn—and this is something that many people with GERD have learned the hard way. High intensity activities like running can really make heartburn sting.
One study from Karolinska Hospital in Sweden found that running is likely to cause heartburn and acid reflux to develop even among people who don’t experience these symptoms regularly. When you run your whole body is jostled around, and that includes your stomach and anything in it. If this causes digestive juices to backwash into your esophagus, you may have to cancel your running plans due to a severe bout of reflux just a block or two into your workout.
Other activities that will leave the body in a similar state to running include jumping, aerobic dances and any other intense activity that involves a lot of jolting, like horseback riding.
But there is hope!
There are a few things that you can do to reduce your risk of letting heartburn interfere with your workout. First, don’t eat for two hours prior to your workout. Not even a bite. Try planning your workouts a few hours ahead of time and spend the last two hours prepping by drinking plenty of water. This two-hour window gives your stomach a head start on digesting your food. This will reduce the amount of acid in your stomach and lower the risk of reflux.
It may also help to cut out high-carbohydrate sport drinks. These drinks are really only beneficial when you are going to be working out intensely for a prolonged period of time, like athletes do. Sticking with water will keep stomach acid at bay.
Finally, keep your head high as you choose your workout—literally. Activities that require you to lie down or put your head lower than your waist are just asking for trouble. These include some kinds of weight lifting, as well as activities like yoga, diving and Pilates.
Talk with your physician before trying any new fitness routine to make sure your body is up to the challenge. When first introducing exercise into your lifestyle, start slow. Jumping right into an activity that is too intense could result in a bad flare-up of heartburn symptoms.