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While some forms of endurance exercise, such as running, are more associated with acid reflux than cycling, cyclists are still prone to experience GERD, warns the American College of Sports Medicine. That’s because all endurance workouts can trigger acid reflux.
Yet don’t let that deter you from hopping on your bicycle. Cycling can still bring many benefits to those who suffer from acid reflux.
In a study published in the medical journal Obesity, researchers noted that “weight gain is an important risk factor for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD),” and that when the people who were enrolled in the study lost weight, they saw a “significant decrease in the overall prevalence of GERD.”
While there are many ways to drop the extra pounds, recent research in the Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology journal reported that cycling is one of the most effective ways to lose weight.
If you want to harness the weight-loss power of cycling and simultaneously avoid triggering your acid reflux symptoms, experts have outlined GERD-conscious ways to cycle smart.
Avoid bike models that require you to lean forward. Bending at the waist can put pressure on your stomach and lower esophageal sphincter, creating the perfect conditions for GERD. Instead, try to ride as upright as possible.
Additionally, consider trading your outdoor road bike for an indoor stationary bike. The National Heartburn Alliance warns that bouncing up and down can trigger acid reflux. An indoor cycling class avoids the bumps and jumps you would otherwise find while riding on outdoor terrain.
Bikers tend to wear tights and other form-fitting clothes, but such outfits often constrict your body and squeeze your abdomen. Consider loosening up a little and choose athletic gear that doesn’t put pressure on your stomach, waist and chest.
Dr. Michael Ross, a gastrointestinal medical expert, tells Bicycling magazine that one of the most common problems he sees is cyclists who eat too much food before getting on their bike. He also says cyclists tend to eat heavy foods that their bodies can’t easily absorb. “That’s why people belch while riding, and why people get gassy and bloated,” says Dr. Ross in his magazine interview with Bicycling.
To avoid this, try to eat more than three hours before you’re planning on riding, and avoid heavy hard-to-digest foods.
If you’re already riding and you start to feel your GERD symptoms kick in, it may help to reduce your cycling intensity and take a break. Dr. Ross tells Bicycling magazine that cyclists with gut issues often find some relief by getting off their bike, stretching, lying on the ground to rest, and going to the bathroom.
You may also want to consider trying some belly breathing exercises while you’re taking a break from your ride. Several studies in the American Journal of Physiology and the Gastroenterology journal have found how abdominal breathing or diaphragmatic breathing can alleviate GERD.