Spoiler: Kettlebell swings DRAMATICALLY helped my IBS!

Exercise constipation diarrhea kettlebell swingsI’ve been writing about IBS for years, and this exercise has helped my IBS more than almost anything else.

Once I got rid of my IBS food triggers, I found some small things that helped, but NOTHING like what has happened since I started kettlebell swings.

I went from loose stools and diarrhea, constipation and gas to having mostly regular bowel movements in less than 2 weeks! I don’t want to give you false hope here, but this is what happened to me.

What are kettlebells and how does this exercise help IBS?

A kettlebell looks kind of like a cannonball with a handle. The most commonly used one is cast iron.

They originated in Russia a few centuries ago, and people have used them to build great, all-over strength, and amazing cardio.Some of the old “Strong Men” are shown lifting them in old ads and postcards.

Kettlebells  became really popular in many parts of the world over the last 10 years or so because they can do amazing things for your body in general.

One of the foundation exercises is the “kettlebell swing”.  I never expected to see such great improvements in my bowel movements and IBS symptoms from this one exercise.

So how does this exercise help IBS? Sure it works your outside muscles, BUT It works out your insides like nothing else I know of.

First here’s a little background on my quest for an exercise that helps IBS:

My doctor recommended exercise for IBS but…

I saw my regular doctor and a gastroenterologist for years, and got all the tests (except for a food elimination diet which I believe is critical).

Scopes and cameras where the sun doesn’t shine, blood tests and all that, all kinds of questionnaires and family histories.

Next came the recommendations that my IBS must be cause by stress, or depression or something, so they sent me to a psychotherapist and a psychiatrist.

Queue second opinion.

But I’m not going to lie. Psychotherapy helped my life. I was a bundle of stress, and learning to live less stressfully has been really good for me.

But it didn’t cure my IBS.

Finally my gastroenterologist literally THREW UP HIS HANDS, and said “I don’t know what could be causing this”. That was a bit of a shock but I appreciated his honesty.

His last bit of wisdom was “Make sure you get at least 20 minutes of cardiovascular exercise 3 to 5 times a week.” He told me that cardio excercise helps peristalsis, the squeezing motion that moves food through your bowels.

He didn’t even say what kind of exercise though!

Exercises that helped my IBS a little:

So I figured that I’d try doing lots of walking. The treadmill didn’t help my IBS at all.

Next I tried sit-ups and crunches. These exercises helped my IBS a lot. Particularly the constipation. It didn’t do much for my loose stool or gas though. It was also remarkably boring, and I had to do a LOT of them to get results.

Regular weight lifting seemed to help very little. I know it’s not cardio but I had the equipment, and knew how to use it so I gave it a shot.

What else could I try? I’m not a gym kind of guy. It’s expensive, and requires me to not be in pajamas when I exercise ;). As far as home equipment, I already bought a treadmill I never use. I’m not buying a bunch of equipment to hang clothing on.

Let’s face it, for most people cardio is boring, and I’m lazy when things are boring (okay I’m lazy whether things are boring or not, but boring is worse :) ).

Lazy people and lazy bowels?

I didn’t want to believe that my lack of exercise was my problem anyway. I’m sure there are people who get plenty of exercise and still have IBS symptoms (tell your story in the comments please!).

Besides, there are a million (okay a couple of thousand) things I’d rather do than exercise. Especially boring exercise.

But I switched primary care doctors, and my new doctor (an osteopath) told me the same kinds of thing.

Exercise helps IBS and lots of other things, and I need to find one that I enjoy.

Exercise that I enjoy sounded like an oxymoron, but she walked me through finding out why I hate exercising so much

My new doctor helped me realize that I needed something at least KIND of fun, and something that moved around a lot. Here was my checklist:

  1. Must be dynamic and move quickly so I don’t get bored
  2. Needs to be something I can do at any time of day, alone if necessary or desirable.
  3. Must be cheap (like me) and not take a lot of space, so I can do it at home. 

Kettlebells: The one exercise for IBS that has worked WONDERS for me!

I typed all that stuff into a Google search and found a site about kettlebells.

Next I was reading how kettlebells are great for cardio and weight loss (which I needed), but they also are great for building useful strength like picking up boxes, kids, couches, your spouse… I WANTED IN!

Now one of the chief exercises (some say the most important kettlebell exercise) is the kettlebell swing.

Check out this kettlebell swing video from Lauren Brooks a great kettlebell teacher. You need to know this stuff before you start. Great form. Skip to the end to just see the swing!

Doing this exercise really works almost your whole body. You’re bending over, then forcefully swinging a piece of iron up in front of you.


Smooshes being the technical term :).

Somehow, this worked a lot of gas out of my system, and firmed up my stool. It also kept stool moving regularly so I was going more often with more “form”.

{Facepalm}I really can’t believe I write this stuff sometimes.

Anyway, within a week or so I gradually started seeing major changes. Less gas, less trapped wind/gas, more regular and easier to pass bowel movements.

In fact the diarrhea and constipation are virtually GONE.

It didn’t seem to help so much with the visceral hypersensitivity (aka bowel pain) that hits me sometimes, but it does seem less frequent.

Can kettlebell swings help YOUR IBS?

I THINK SO! If someone asked me to recommend one exercise for IBS, this would be the one.

But only YOU can find out for sure.

NOTE: This is a powerful full body exercise. YOU CAN hurt yourself. You should talk to your doctor about it and get some training or at least a DVD about kettlebells.

The kettlebells themselves are small and don’t take up room like most gym equipment. Amazingly all this goodness from a piece of iron smaller than a gallon of milk. They are also much cheaper (less than $100, often less than $50).

Kettlebells and flatulence!

I don’t like typing this, but you’ve got to know. If you’re like me, kettebells swings are going to get gas out of your system when you use them!

In other words we’re talking about occassional out-of-control farts.


Though there are good reasons to take a class (expertise, training, companionship) this is one reason I like doing kettlebell exercises at home.

This kettlebell exercise for IBS has my HUGE vote of confidence.

As I said above, the 2 biggest things that have helped my IBS are eliminating my IBS trigger foods, and doing kettlebell swings.

There are other exercises to be done with kettlebells, but that’s more than I’m going to write about here.


All the best!