How To Exercise When Suffering From Hemorrhoids

How To Exercise When Suffering From Hemorrhoids

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Exercise provides numerous mind-body benefits, and incorporating exercise into your daily routine is an important component of maintaining optimal health and wellness. Not only does it improve your respiratory and cardiovascular health, it also strengthens muscles, boosts immunity, and elevates mood.

Regular physical activity like walking, biking, and swimming helps to regulate the digestive system, and keep bowels and bladder moving more efficiently. When your systems of elimination are working well, there’s less chance of developing hemorrhoids.

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What Are Hemorrhoids?

Hemorrhoids are unsightly, painful, and inconvenient, for starters. They’re essentially enlarged veins located around the anus or inside the rectum. Symptoms of hemorrhoids can include:

  • Itching, irritation, and pain in and around the anus
  • Painful swelling and lumps in and around the anus
  • Painful bowel movements
  • Fecal leakage
  • Blood on your tissue after a bowel movement

Hemorrhoids are often linked to situations where you have strained the rectal or anal area – movements like weight training, bending and lifting, and excessive straining during bowel movements can all cause hemorrhoids. They can also be caused by sitting on the toilet for long periods of time with your rectum exposed. Pregnancy can also put pressure on rectal veins, causing them to bulge outside of the body in some cases. Regular movement and exercise are recommended to reduce swelling and tone up muscles in this area, thus reducing symptoms.

Photo: WikiMedia Commons/Bill Branson

Exercising With Hemorrhoids: What Can Be Done?

Swollen and painful hemorrhoids don’t have to derail your fitness goals; it’s possible to stay active and even improve your condition with the right kinds of activities. There are, of course, exercises that help to promote healing – and those that you should stay away from – when attempting to exercise with hemorrhoids. To stay active and proactively manage your condition, consider the following:

  • Walking and other cardiovascular activities – Aerobic exercises are the best type of movement for people with hemorrhoids. They get the blood flowing and help muscles in the lower part of the body relax. Aerobic activity also helps to reduce the risk of ongoing constipation, a major contributing factor to the development of hemorrhoids.
  • Treadmill and elliptical machine exercises – Careful now, you don’t want to get too rigorous with running and elliptical throwdowns. Monitor yourself carefully; if you experience pain or discomfort in your lower abdomen, buttocks, or rectum, switch to something a little less jarring and seek the advice of your doctor before resuming this type of exercise. When done correctly, however, these exercises can be incredibly effective at regulating your digestive system and bowel function.
  • Water exercises – Swimming and water aerobics are excellent ways to stay active while giving your hemorrhoids time to heal. These types of activities provide muscle resistance for toning, while at the same time giving you a hearty dose of cardiovascular challenge.
  • Exercises involving the ‘Kegel muscles’ and pelvic floor – The muscles in your rectum need regular stimulation to stay strong and healthy as well. Muscles involving the pelvic floor, such as tightening the sphincter muscle around your anus, performing Kegel exercises, and certain types of squats all work these muscles that help tighten and tone your lower body, helping to keep blood vessels in place.
  • Yoga – Is there any physical issue that yoga doesn’t address? Thousands of years of wisdom, application, and practice all point to its efficacy in helping to treat all kinds of physical issues, including hemorrhoids. Various seated and inverted postures work to strengthen the pelvic floor and actually prevent the enlargement of blood vessels that could potentially become irritated and inflamed. Regular yoga practice also improves digestion and elimination processes, cleaning out the body and even assisting in healing.
Photo: WikiMedia Commons/Sgt. David McLean

What Exercises Should Be Avoided?

Several types of exercises should be avoided if you have hemorrhoids; these activities can cause flare-ups, additional damage, and severe complications if you attempt them.

  • Exercises involving jarring movements or pressure on the rectum – Activities such as horseback riding, cycling, rowing, and spinning can put additional pressure on this area of the body, potentially worsening your condition.
  • Weight-bearing exercises and heavy lifting – Exercises where you are required to hold your breath while lifting (also called the Valsalva maneuver) and excessive lifting and squatting will most certainly aggravate hemorrhoids. Seek gentler forms of muscle toning, such as mat work, Pilates, and yoga, until your symptoms have lessened.
  • Cross-fit – The nature of this type of exercise is very strenuous, and will put a strain on the muscles around your hips, thighs, and buttocks. It’s best to wait with all forms of vigorous training until your symptoms have lessened or subsided.
  • Plyometrics – Plyometrics is a type of athletic training designed to significantly improve speed, stamina, and athletic performance. It’s not for the faint of heart, or the weak of sphincter. The jarring movements involved in many plyometrics sessions will only aggravate sensitive and inflamed tissues, causing more harm than good.
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Gearing Up For Your Sweaty Session

Regardless of the type of exercise that you choose to perform, there are some things you can do to lessen stress on the body and prepare for a productive session without further risk of harm.

Stay well hydrated throughout your session, as this will help your digestive and elimination processes to perform as intended. Drinking enough water daily will reduce the risk of constipation, which could further complicate your hemorrhoid symptoms.

Wear the right type of clothing for your exercise; it should breathe well across hips, buttocks, and thighs, and it shouldn’t cause any additional friction in sensitive areas.

Immediately upon finishing, change out of sweaty workout wear, as the extra moisture could cause you excess irritation. If you find it helpful, consider doing a sitz bath to soothe irritated tissues and reduce swelling.

If you don’t already have a suitable exercise program, consult with your doctor to see what types of exercise would be appropriate for you and your condition. Sitting on your hemorrhoids (metaphorically and literally) will not improve your health and fitness, so now that you know what types of activity promote better health and healing, get on with the business of creating your best body yet.