Understanding The Impact Of Sedentary Lifestyle On Digestion And Bowel Function, Experts Share Views – News18


Living a sedentary lifestyle can significantly affect your digestion and bowel function. To maintain a healthy digestive tract, prevent constipation, and avoid blockages in the digestive system, it is crucial to exercise regularly. Inactivity can lead to weight gain, which further increases the risk of digestive problems.

Regular physical exercise such as walking or cycling can significantly improve your digestive health by promoting smooth bowel movements and reducing the risk of constipation. When you are inactive, the natural contractions of your intestines are hindered, which can cause blockages in the digestive system and make it difficult to pass stool. Moreover, a sedentary lifestyle can lead to weight gain, which has been linked to various digestive issues.

Dr. Kiran Shinde, Consultant – Gastroenterologist, Sahyadri Super Speciality Hospital, Hadapsar, Pune, says, “Prolonged sitting and little physical exercise can lead to a sedentary lifestyle, which can have a significant impact on bowel function. Sluggish bowel motions and a higher risk of constipation are often the outcome of inactivity. Lack of activity reduces the normal contractions of the muscles in the intestines, which makes it more difficult for waste to pass through the digestive system effectively. As a result, inactive people may experience rare and difficult constipation episodes.”

“Extended periods of sitting can compress the belly and pelvis, which might hinder the normal passage of digestive juices. Because of this compression, the intestines receive less blood, which impairs their capacity to absorb nutrients and encourage regular bowel motions. Apart from the obvious physical effects, a sedentary lifestyle can upset the gut microbiota’s delicate balance, decreasing the variety and quantity of good bacteria and perhaps aggravating digestive problems,” the doctor further added.

Dr. Shinde also spoke about how reduced physical activity can result in slower transit times for faecal matter through the intestines, leading to constipation and related complications. A sedentary lifestyle is associated with changes in the composition of the gut microbiome, increasing susceptibility to gastrointestinal disorders. Combining a sedentary lifestyle with poor dietary choices, such as a low-fibre and high-processed food diet, contributes to inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract. This dual impact further compromises bowel health, emphasizing the importance of addressing lifestyle choices comprehensively to manage digestive issues effectively.

Constipation is a major health issue that stems from a sedentary lifestyle as well. Dr. Rajesh Jaria, Consultant, Internal Medicine, P. D. Hinduja Hospital & Medical Research Centre, Khar, points out, “Constipation has many descriptions, and often, an unwillingness to discuss it openly leads to continued differences in understanding.”

He went on to add, “Definition-wise, constipation is having less than three bowel movements per week. This leaves room for other problems that occur despite three or more motions a week, such as straining to start or complete a bowel movement, a feeling of fullness or incomplete emptying, and a stool consistency like rocks or pebbles. Constipation can lead to abdominal pain, tenesmus, and flatulence. Straining may cause haemorrhoids (piles), fissures, or even rectal prolapse.”

Constipation can result from issues under patient control or issues beyond full patient control. Occasionally, the starting point may be under control but is not controlled, snowballing into chronic constipation. The doctors pointed out that the patient usually has the following under control, causes are-

  • Dietary Issues: Reduced fibre intake
  • Avoiding going to the toilet with an associated psychological overlay
  • Inadequate hydration
  • Changes in daily routine

Pathological issues, which are often not under the patient’s control, are:

  1. Slow transit constipation, or lazy bowel syndrome. Stool moves through the digestive tract slowly. Besides the above patient-related issues, causes can be drugs, intestinal obstruction from strictures, or even cancer.
  2. Nerve signalling derangements and neurological problems impact the movement of stool in the gut in conditions such as multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s.
  3. Pelvic floor muscle weakness and other muscle function problems contribute significantly to constipation. Pelvic floor muscles move in coordination so that stool is pushed down through the rectum.

It is essential to include regular physical exercise in everyday activities to prevent these effects. Easy workouts that improve blood circulation and induce intestinal contractions, such as walking, running, or cycling, support better digestive function. Eating a diet high in fibre and staying hydrated both contribute to digestive regularity.

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