Exercising With Acid Reflux: What You Should Know

by Jennifer Mitchell Wilson B.S. Dietetics, Dietitian, Health Professional

There’s no time like the present to make a few healthy changes in your life, especially when it comes to physical activity. If you are overweight, losing excess pounds can have more than aesthetic value: It can actually help lessen your acid reflux. Just be sure to talk with your doctor first to be sure you are cleared to work out and to discuss what activities are best for you.

What kind of exercises are best?

The type of exercise you do will depend on your overall health and should take into account any injuries. You don’t want to go full-force only to blow up your progress with an injury. So first things first: Take it slow. What I like to tell my sedentary clients is to start walking 30 minutes a day. Once they have done that for a couple of weeks, they can add 15 minutes to the walk until they gradually work up to an hour.

Another great exercise for those with reflux, especially those with injuries that prevent walking, is swimming. There are water aerobics classes all over the country, or you could just swim laps at your local pool or YMCA. For the more fit among us, running, cycling, or spin class might do the trick. But be sure to follow your gut — a bad gut day is not the right time to try out a high-intensity program.

What exercises should you avoid on a high-burn day?

There is no cut-and-dry rule for everyone, but certain exercises might make an already irritated gut or heartburn worse. Pilates and yoga, for example, are amazing exercises for when you are feeling good, but the twisting and abdominal pressure can be torture on those rough acid reflux days. Pay attention to your body and stop if you find a particular motion triggers your reflux. The same goes for other exercises that put extra stress on the abdomen or require inverted poses.

Tips for making exercising with acid reflux easier

  • Take your acid-reducing medications on time and preferably 30 minutes before working out.

  • Do not exercise on a full stomach. Instead, try a small snack that combines protein and carbs, like half a banana with peanut butter.

  • If you can exercise on an empty stomach, that is fine too (with your physician’s approval).

  • Try to wait at least two hours after eating to exercise.

  • Sip water to stay hydrated and wash acid down. Note: If you guzzle a bunch of water right before working out, you will have the same issue as if you had eaten a big meal.

  • Watch out for energy drinks or sport supplements. Many contain additives that could trigger your reflux.

  • Wear loose-fitting clothing. I know — tight yoga pants are so cute these days! But they only further compress the abdomen, adding to the burn.

Hopefully with these tips and a few tweaks here and there you will be a gym rat in no time. Just get moving!

Jennifer Mitchell Wilson
Meet Our Writer
Jennifer Mitchell Wilson

Jennifer Mitchell Wilson is a dietitian and mother of three girls. Two of her children have dealt with acid reflux disease, food allergies, migraines, and asthma. She has a Bachelor of Science in dietetics from Harding University and has done graduate work in public health and nutrition through Eastern Kentucky University. In addition to writing for HealthCentral, she does patient consults and serves on the Board of Directors for the Pediatric Adolescent Gastroesophageal Reflux Association.