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Does it really make any difference? If yes, then by what mechanism?

I pass gas frequently and have hard stools. I've read that walking helps with both these problems.

For example, on the Mayo Clinic site, one of the recommendations is

Get moving. It may help to take a short walk after eating.

That's all of it; there's no explanation why. I've seen similar advice on other sites as well.

Is there any truth to this? And how does exercise affect constipation?

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This '05 study found a positive effect from exercise. Here middle aged (>45y) subjects with chronic idiopathic constipation had their Rome symptoms (straining, hard stools, and incomplete evacuation) improved by a 30 min cardio workout and 11 minute home programe.

On the other hand, this '98 study found there was little or no positive effect on patients with the same diagnosis, this study however, was smaller and of shorter duration.

However, I could find no study in favor (or against) of exercise helping occasional constipation. It is in the nature of this condition hard to gather subject for a controlled study, and we can assume the clinical support will stay at anecdotal level for some time being.

As exercise a lot of other benefits, it should in worst case be a harmless recommendation. Best case there is some effect that is not yet clinically documented.

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