Hemorrhoids are swollen and sensitive blood vessels in the rectal area. Having them can make sitting down painful.¹
In the US, one in two adults over the age of 50 suffers from a degree of hemorrhoids. The condition affects over 4.4% of people globally. All genders are susceptible to hemorrhoids, and prevalence grows with age.²
Many people enjoy activities that keep them moving, including walking, running, and swimming. However, some believe that running can aggravate hemorrhoids or even cause them.
Running cannot cause hemorrhoids and, in most cases, will not aggravate your symptoms if you don’t run intensely over long distances.
Other specific exercises that put pressure on your lower abdomen or pelvis, like weightlifting, can cause your hemorrhoids to worsen. Exercising with bad form can also cause harm.
Another factor is not drinking enough water. This leads to dehydration and constipation, which increases your risk of hemorrhoids.
Let’s look at some frequently asked questions about running with hemorrhoids and which physical exercises you can do while you have them.
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Hemorrhoids are swollen and typically sensitive blood vessels in the anal and outer rectal canal. They can be internal (inside the outer rectum) or external (around the anus).³
Internal hemorrhoids are often painless because the anal canal has few nerve endings. However, they can bleed when stool passes through and scrapes against them.
External hemorrhoids are usually more painful because they are located in an area with more nerve endings.
Clots can form inside the hemorrhoidal vein (thrombosed hemorrhoid) that prevent the blood from flowing. This causes swelling and pain when walking or sitting down. Thrombosed hemorrhoid is not a serious medical emergency, but the area could become infected, or an abscess may form. These situations would require urgent treatment.
The following are factors that can contribute to the development of hemorrhoids:
Constipation — straining to have a bowel movement can put extra pressure on the veins in your anus and rectum, causing swelling and inflammation
Pregnancy — being pregnant can increase intra-abdominal pressure and lead to hemorrhoids⁴
Sitting for a long time — this habit can increase the pressure on your veins and cause them to become swollen and inflamed
There is no known direct association or correlation between running and hemorrhoids.
Physical activity is important to improve symptoms of hemorrhoids as it helps improve circulation and regulate bowel movements.
Numerous studies have demonstrated that a sedentary lifestyle is a risk factor for developing hemorrhoids. The type of exercise you do is crucial in determining the impact on your hemorrhoids as some exercises could do more harm than good.⁵
Regular mild to moderate exercise can help ensure proper bowel motility and prevent constipation. This is typically recommended to aid hemorrhoid management. Conversely, you should avoid high-intensity, strenuous exercises that put strain on your abdominal or anal area.
You can go running if your hemorrhoids are in the early stages with minimal pain and swelling. However, your runs should be short with no sprinting. It’s a good idea to wear breathable and comfortable clothing, hydrate continuously, and consume a fiber-rich diet to prevent constipation.
If your hemorrhoids are large or painful, and the thought of running with hemorrhoids makes you feel uncomfortable, it may not be worth the risk. Possible limitations of running with hemorrhoids are pain, gastrointestinal upset, and discomfort if you need to use the bathroom on a long run.
Getting rid of hemorrhoids may require time and visits to your doctor to help manage the discomfort, itching, bleeding, and pain. The best course of action is minimizing the chances of hemorrhoids developing in the first place.
The following exercises may help you prevent hemorrhoids, although no scientific studies have evaluated them.
Low- to medium-intensity, low-impact exercises. These shouldn’t put pressure on your abdomen or rectal area. Remember to drink enough water to compensate for the water you sweat, as proper hydration is essential to prevent constipation (a causal factor in hemorrhoids forming and worsening).
Simple exercises like brisk walking, water aerobics, and swimming are especially effective at getting the blood flowing. Remember to start slowly and maintain low to medium intensity.
Yoga is a gentle activity that can aid flexibility and strength. Controlled exercises in yoga may help strengthen your abdominal and rectal tissues. However, some yoga poses can put you at risk of straining your hemorrhoids. It’s therefore important to choose gentle poses.
Consult your doctor before attempting any form of exercise with hemorrhoids.
There are several other exercises that may cause hemorrhoids or worsen those you already have. These exercises include cycling, horseback riding, rowing, weightlifting, and even squats and situps.
One of the best ways to manage and prevent hemorrhoids is to live a healthy lifestyle. That said, some exercises put pressure on the lower abdomen and pelvic areas, increasing your risk of hemorrhoids or worsening the condition.
Running can’t cause hemorrhoids, but it’s best to avoid intense, long-distance running if you already have the condition. Ensure that you are well-hydrated and wearing breathable clothes to avoid worsening your symptoms.
Focusing on mild, gentle forms of exercise, eating a balanced, high-fiber diet, and keeping hydrated can significantly reduce your chances of developing hemorrhoids.
Make an appointment to see your doctor for diagnosis and treatment options if you experience symptoms of hemorrhoids, such as bleeding, pain, or itching in the anal canal.
Definition & facts of hemorrhoids | National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)
Prevalence and associated factors of hemorrhoids among adult patients visiting the surgical outpatient department in the university of Gondar comprehensive specialized hospital, Northwest Ethiopia (2021)