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From stress to diet to working for hours in cramped positions, every part of modern life can wreak havoc on the gut.

In general, exercise is good for digestion, promoting blood flow and healthy bacteria. Some stretches and exercises, however, can especially encourage good gut health.

Desk Exercises for Posture

Slouching in front of a computer or smartphone squishes the stomach and intestines, reducing circulation. One simple posture exercise can be performed at the desk.

Sit up straight with both feet firmly on the floor and take a deep breath. Tuck the pubic bone up towards the ribs to lengthen the lumbar spine. Draw the bones just under the buttocks together and try to slowly line up the spine from bottom to top. Widen the collarbones. Place the right hand behind the head and gently let the head rest in the palm of that hand, aligned with the spine. Hold for a few breaths, then relax. Do this exercise a few times a day.

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Exercise Ball

If your workstation can accommodate it, sitting on an exercise ball instead of a standard desk chair can greatly improve gut health. Exercise balls naturally improve posture and increase abdominal movement as muscles work to remain balanced.

This chair alternative also encourages bouncing, which can improve circulation, keep the legs moving, and reduce stress. Note that your ball shouldn't necessarily replace a good office chair, simply serve as an occasional change of position.

Businessman using mobile phone and laptop while sitting on fitness ball at office Westend61 / Getty Images
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Walking

A brisk 20 to 30-minute walk four times a week can help reduce bloating and improve digestion. It may be possible to work walking into a weekly routine.

Walk to a nearby grocery store or restaurant instead of getting delivery, take a stroll around the office building during lunch, or plan a daily walk with a loved one.

woman walking on city sidewalk JGI/Jamie Grill / Getty Images
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Diaphragmatic Breathing

The diaphragm is a large, dome-shaped muscle that contracts and expands to pull air into the lungs. To stretch the diaphragm, lay back. Relax all your muscles. Breathe as deeply as possible into the stomach, trying to move the shoulders and chest as little as possible.

The stomach should fill up like a balloon as the diaphragm extends. Exhale fully and tighten the abdominal muscles for three seconds. Repeat ten times.

Man practicing meditation in living room Justin Paget / Getty Images
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Kegel Exercises

Kegels are often associated with childbirth, but anyone can do them. These exercises strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, which can help with bowel control, relieve constipation, and increase pleasure during sex.

While relaxing the stomach, legs, and buttocks, clench the muscles that would be used to stop urinating mid-stream. Hold for 3-5 seconds, relax for 3-5 seconds, and then repeat.

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Side to Side Rocking

Rocking helps to stretch and strengthen the muscles that support digestion. Lie back with knees bent and pressed together. While taking deep, slow breaths, rock the knees from side to side.

These motions can be relatively shallow, or, for a deep stretch, the knees can fall fully to the side for a supine twist. Hold for ten seconds, feeling the stretch in the lower back and legs, and then transition to the other side.

People performing supine spinal twist
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Knees to Chest

For bloating and constipation, pressing the knee to the chest can help relieve pressure and move things along.

Lie back with both legs bent, feet flat on the floor. Pull one knee into the chest while exhaling. Let the knee go and inhale while it returns to a bent, resting position, and then repeat with the other knee.

woman with her knees to her chest fizkes / Getty Images
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Chest Press

Research suggests that resistance exercise combined with aerobics can greatly improve digestive function and reduce the risk of constipation and colon cancers. The chest press in the study utilized a resistance band.

Step on the resistance band with one foot, then step the other foot forward into a lunch position. Hold the handles of the band so the tubing runs down the arms and along the sides or back of the body. Leaning forward slightly, press the band away from you, extending the arms. Re-bend the elbows with control, and repeat the exercise, switching feet halfway through the reps.

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Reverse Crunches

Core conditioning strengthens muscles in the back and abdomen, which can reduce back pain, improve physical performance, and aid digestion. Reverse crunches are a core exercise that places less pressure on the spine than traditional crunches.

Lay on the back with hands pressed to the sides, feet crossed and off the floor, and knees bent. Tighten the abdominal muscles and raise the knees and hips towards the rib cage. Hold for a second or two, then slowly lower the hips back to the floor.

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Gate Pose

Yoga supports digestion by improving posture, stretching the muscles, and reducing overall stress. One particularly effective pose is the gate pose, which stretches the core muscles.

From an upright, kneeling position, stretch the right leg to the side, heel on the ground, foot flat and pointed forward. Put the right hand on the leg for balance. With the opposite arm, stretch above the head and to the right. Feel the stretch in the side, legs, and back, reducing the stretch if it becomes painful. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds.

woman doing yoga gate pose fizkes / Getty Images

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This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.