Today I’m giving it to you straight – what I really think about workouts and gut healing. In some way, shape, or form, I’m asked weekly about it.
The latest question was this,
I wanted to reach out to get your opinion on what type of training you think is best for anyone suffering from GI issues. For example – is heavy weight lifting too much stress on the body? Is higher reps/lighter weight and more LISS better?
Let’s go back just a little so you can read about what I’ve written with regards to workouts and healing in the past:
- Tabata Workouts
- Winter Healing Workouts
- Workouts with Colitis
- Too Tired to Workout
- The Rules of Running
- Workouts Past Present and Future
- 6 Reasons I’m a Long Distance Running Dropout
- Running is Hard
- Running and Gut Flaring
- 101 Days with No Cardio
- How I Healed SIBO Long Term
- The Repercussions of Overexercising and Under Eating on the Gut
- 10 Tips for Runners with IBS or IBD
And more….seriously – just put in “running” and/or “workouts” into the agutsygirl.com search bar and it will all pop up.
What I Really Think About Workouts and Gut Healing
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If you want to stop reading the entire post after I make my statement, go ahead. I’m saying it exactly as it is.
What I really think about workouts and gut healing is that, unless they are extra-super-uber light and minimal, they cannot co-exist. Having big workout/fitness goals and the goal to heal your gut are conflicting.
I want to be an athlete, and I want to do all the things to build a super strong body. But I’m just not ever going to because what’s most important to me is feeling the way I finally do.
On my gut-healing journey, I have done it all. And I mean that from the bottom of my heart. I have:
- Not worked out
- Worked out some
- Had a light (actual) training schedule
- Been on a 4-5+ day rigorous schedule
- Trained for PR half marathons
- Done obsessive (2-a-day) workouts
In addition, the workouts I have mostly done in the past 10 years have included:
- running (10 minutes or less, 20 minutes or less, super easy, super hard, 10K, half marathon)
- crossfit-style workouts (Tabata, Spartan, HIIT, etc.)
- heavy lifting (less reps, heavier weight)
- light lifting (more reps, lighter weight)
So then how did I come up with my ultimate conclusion? Was it based on personal experience or research?
Let’s see what the research says about workouts and gut healing first.
Gut Healing and Exercise
Exercise is “Good”
- Researchers say they noticed changes in the gut microbiome after six weeks of exercise. The gut makeup returned to normal after exercise was dropped. (source)
- When the researchers looked at populations over time, low physical activity was associated with IBD. The more active people were, the less likely they were to develop IBD over the course of their life. (source)
- Sticking to a regular exercise program also can strengthen your digestive system. For example, studies have suggested that taking a 15-to 20-minute walk after a meal can aid in digestion. (source)
Exercise is “Harmful”
- Too much exercise can adversely affect your gut, and athletes sometimes unknowingly struggle with gut issues. Because they might feel otherwise healthy and “do everything correctly,” they don’t realize how overexercise can stress the body and deliver a whammy to their digestion. (source via source)
- Exercise is an important environmental factor shown to positively affect the gut microbiome – but only if it’s not excessive. (source)
- “In The Paleo Approach, I detailed the impact of strenuous activity on the immune system (summary: it’s not good).” (source) (By the way, I have – and love – that book.)
Based on the research, I did and also did not come up with my final conclusion.
It’s no wonder you aren’t sure if working out is helping or hurting your gut healing because there is research on both ends to support whatever you want to tell yourself.
And that’s exactly what I did for years. I took the research as, “Exercise is always good for the gut,” without admitting to myself that the way I was training and approaching it had already been proven based on the research and personal experience to not be doing me any favors.
I believe that you already know your answer, deep down. The question is not, “Which workout should I do in order to feel better?” Instead, it’s, “Is what I’m currently doing working?” Had I been brutally honest with myself about that 10 years ago, it likely would have saved me years of gut h#$%.
In other words, if I were to answer the question first stated in this post, I’d say,
I don’t actually know because I don’t know how you’re feeling. You, however, do. And it’s simple to know. Ask yourself the following questions….
- How many consecutive days have I worked out?
- Does my stomach feel even a little bit off?
- Am I currently in a flare or did I just get over one?
- Do I / am I able to eat appropriately to fuel the workouts?
- BUT WHAT FOR? This is the most important question you could ask yourself. I discussed this on THIS podcast, so have a listen.
And guess what? I religiously ask myself those questions these days. And because of it, my workouts are minimal in quantity and the only days I am “all out” are few and far between. If I choose to have a hard workout day, I typically rest one or two days – doing nothing – barely even walking.
Why? Because I love working out super hard. It’s one of my favorite things to do. But those are the exact workouts that cause the body a ton of stress, and remember, excessive stress will forever leave you in a state of distress.
The choice is always yours.
You will heal. I will help.