The impact of running on gastrointestinal symptoms in patients with irritable bowel syndrome

Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2024 Jan;36(1):e14707.doi: 10.1111/nmo.14707. Epub 2023 Nov 14.


A Mireille Baart 1 2Marco Mensink 1Ben J M Witteman 1 3


Author information

1Division of Human Nutrition and Health, Wageningen University & Research, Wageningen, The Netherlands.

2Sports Valley, Department of Sports Medicine, Gelderse Vallei Hospital, Ede, The Netherlands.

3Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Gelderse Vallei Hospital, Ede, The Netherlands.


Introduction: Physical activity has been suggested to alleviate gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms in patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS); however, evidence is scarce. Running has become increasingly popular and may be beneficial for patients with IBS. To obtain more insight in the potential application of running as therapy, we aimed to explore the impact of running and its intensity on GI symptoms in patients with IBS.

Methods: Data from a large observational study in runners were used for this nested case-control study, which included 153 runners with IBS and 153 controls. All participants had completed a questionnaire on personal characteristics, running characteristics and GI symptoms. Regarding GI symptoms, the severity of nine symptoms was asked, both at rest and during and/or shortly (up to 3 h) after running. Each symptom could be scored on a scale from 0 (not bothersome) to 100 (very bothersome), resulting in a maximum total score of 900 points.

Key results: The prevalence and total severity score of GI symptoms were higher in runners with IBS than in controls, both at rest and during running. Among runners with IBS, the median (25th-75th percentile) total severity score during/after running was significantly lower than at rest (118 [50-200] vs. 150 [90-217]), while in controls no significant difference between running and rest was observed. Analyses stratified for running intensity revealed that the beneficial effect in runners with IBS was present when their most intensive training session was moderately intensive or intensive but not very intensive.

Conclusions & inferences: Running, particularly on moderate intensity, could have a beneficial effect on GI symptoms in patients with IBS.

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