9 Tips for Exercising With Acid Reflux

by Tracy Davenport, Ph.D. Health Writer

People who live with acid reflux disease or even occasional heartburn may experience worsened symptoms during physical activity. Here’s what you should know about working out when you have acid reflux. Be sure to consult your doctor before starting any kind of fitness regimen.

Man and woman running on treadmills, from behind.

Physical activity increases reflux

Unfortunately, this is the plight of people with reflux. Different studies have confirmed that vigorous physical activity will stir up acid in the stomach and cause it to spill into the esophagus. Acid reflux symptoms can increase with the intensity of the exercise and are more common with endurance sports. Symptoms can also get worse with activities that happen after eating.

Three people doing spinal twist in yoga class.

Choose your activities wisely

Activities that are jarring to the body such as jogging and contact sports may result in worsened symptoms. Lower-impact activities such as yoga, swimming and walking may be better choices, especially on days when your reflux symptoms are at their worst.

Woman weighing herself on gym scale.

A high BMI increases reflux symptoms

A person’s body mass index (BMI) is calculated using weight and height and is used to determine if a person is overweight, obese, or of a normal weight. According to one study, a person with a high BMI runs a higher risk of developing acid reflux symptoms during a workout.

Man eating a hamburger.

Avoid eating before exercise

Large meals (or even medium-size meals) before exercise will most likely result in acid reflux. If you need to eat before a workout, make it a small snack, like a protein bar or banana. These homemade bars are reflux-friendly and freeze well.

Woman drinking water at gym.

Keep water on hand

Having access to water during a workout can be extremely helpful for cooling and hydration. And if you have reflux, water can also help to cleanse the esophagus and may even help relieve symptoms if they do arise.

Two antacids in the palm of male hand.

Find a treatment that works for you

To avoid acid reflux during exercise, you must find a way to avoid acid reflux at rest. Talk to your doctor about treatment options for your acid reflux and understand how to apply that treatment to improve your exercise regimen. For example, I eat an early breakfast, take my reflux medication, and then exercise about an hour later. This seems to work well for me.

Female hand holding pen about to write in journal.

Write it down

A good way to develop a workout routine free from acid reflux is to take notes of how different workouts and medications affect you. Record the workouts that you do, any medications you take and when, and what you ate before the activity. Also record how you felt during the workout. You may begin to see a pattern of what works best for you.

Two men doing pilates at gym.

Modify workouts

Be prepared to adjust your workouts as reflux symptoms present themselves. Even if you have been a life-long runner or skier, once reflux symptoms arise, adjustments must be made to protect your health. Be prepared to work with your doctor to find an alternate way to work out.

Woman working out in pool aerobics class.

Find what works and stay with it

Once you’ve found a workout routine that provides the physical activity you need without aggravating your reflux symptoms, stay with it! People with a high body mass index tend to experience worsened acid reflux symptoms, so staying fit will help keep reflux symptoms at bay. Consistent physical activity is absolutely paramount to optimal health.

Tracy Davenport, Ph.D.
Meet Our Writer
Tracy Davenport, Ph.D.

Davenport is the founder of Tracyshealthyliving.com. Using the latest scientific research, she helps people live their healthiest lives via one-on-one coaching, corporate talks, and sharing the more than 1,000 health-related articles she's authored.