A new study has found that exercising could help cut symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). These included abdominal pain and stool problems (constipation, diarrhea), as well as a lower quality of life overall. Score yet another one for physical activity, the one thing we can all do to help ourselves.
The study, based in Sweden, included 102 patients with IBS between the ages of 18 and 65. Half the patients were randomly chosen to increase their physical activity and the other half to maintain their usual lifestyle. Both groups received supportive phone calls from a physiotherapist. The active group increased their physical activity on their own, but with the advice of and support from the physiotherapist.
The exercising group was advised to perform “moderate to vigorous” physical activity for 20 to 30 minutes, three to five times a week. This is not a large amount of time, as you can see. But it’s just a half-hour every other day a week that could make a big-time difference in the state of your health.
At the start of the study, and again three months later, participants were asked to rate their different IBS complaints, such as abdominal pain, stool problems and quality of life. It was put on a scale of points assigned to symptoms. Those who did not change their lifestyle had an average decrease of symptoms of five points. Those taking up the physical activity had improved symptoms, with an average reduction of 51 points. This is a very considerable swing in favor of exercise.
Research also showed that the 23% of the people with an unchanged lifestyle had deteriorating symptoms. That compared to just eight percent of those in the exercise group. What’s more is that the measurement of fitness in the study showed a slight increase in the exercise group only. This means that even slightly boosting your level of physical activity could reduce symptoms and protect from deterioration.
The study, published in The American Journal of Gastroenterology has attracted great attention in the United States, United Kingdom and Sweden. It is time, IBS patients (and all the rest of us), to get moving.