Exercise & Acid Reflux

Situps sometimes exacerbate acid reflux.
i Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Food travels through the esophagus before reaching the stomach. When food reaches your stomach, the esophageal sphincter, which is made of muscle fibers, prevents the food from traveling back into the esophagus. Acid reflux occurs when the esophageal sphincter doesn’t close properly and allows stomach acid and food to travel back into the esophagus. Symptoms include pain in the chest, nausea, coughing and difficulty swallowing. Acid reflux can occur at any time. However, activities such as exercise, sometimes make it worse.


    Aerobic exercises that agitate the body, such as vigorous jogging, heavy bicycling or high intensity aerobics, tend to trigger acid reflux. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, this is because intense exercise tends to decrease blood flow to the intestines and esophagus area. In addition, exercises that cause you to lie on your stomach, lie flat on your back or contract your abdomen often make acid reflux symptoms worse. These include exercises such as surfing, weight lifting and situps.


    Take an over-the-counter antacid as soon as acid reflux symptoms develop. These medications neutralize the acid in your stomach quickly. If antacids don’t normally work for you, take an H-2 receptor blocker medication like ranitidine or famotidine instead, which reduces the production of acid in your stomach. Another medication to consider is a proton pump inhibitor medication like lansoprazole, which actually blocks the production of acid. Remove any tight fitting clothing such as a sports bra or tight shirt. Tight clothing puts pressure on your lower esophageal sphincter and abdomen, which tends to trigger or worsen acid reflux during exercise.

Tips and Prevention

    Pay attention to what exercises trigger your acid reflux. Eliminate or revise the exercise so that you aren’t in a prone position, such as laying flat on your back. Don’t eat right before or after you exercise, which can trigger acid reflux. If you consistently get acid reflux during exercise, take an acid reducer medication about 30 minutes prior to your workout to ward off symptoms. Drink only water when you are exercising. Sports drinks and other high-carbohydrate drinks tend to worsen acid reflux.


    Call your doctor if your acid reflux symptoms get worse or do not improve even after you modify your exercise routine or medication. In addition, seek medical assistance if you experience frequent vomiting after exercise, choking, bleeding, a persistent hoarse throat or difficulty swallowing. Untreated, acid reflux sometimes leads to serious complications such as damage to the lower esophagus, ulcers and even a condition called Barret’s esophagus, which is associated with esophageal cancer.

the nest