Objective: It is not well known whether physical activity (PA) is useful in the management of patients complaining of constipation. The aim of this study was to test the influence of regular PA on colonic transit time and defecation in middle-aged inactive patients suffering from chronic idiopathic constipation.
Material and methods: Forty-three subjects (> 45 years) were randomly divided into group A (n = 18, 16 F, 2 M) and group B (n = 25, 20 F, 5 M). Group A subjects maintained their normal lifestyle during 12 weeks, followed by a 12-week PA programme. Group B performed a 12-week PA programme after randomization. PA comprised 30 min of brisk walking and a daily 11-min home-based programme. Both groups received dietary advice. Colonic transit time was measured using a radiographic multiple marker single film technique.
Results: Despite dietary advice, mean fibre and fluid intake did not change. In group B a significant reduction in 3 out of 4 of the Rome I criteria for constipation was observed, i.e. percentage of incomplete defecations, percentage of defecations requiring straining and percentage of hard stools (p < 0.05). As a consequence, the number of fulfilled Rome criteria for constipation decreased (2.7 to 1.7; p < 0.05). Furthermore, the rectosigmoid and total colonic transit time decreased (17.5 to 9.6 h and 79.2 to 58.4 h, respectively; p < 0.05). After PA the number of fulfilled Rome criteria also decreased in group A (2.6 to 1.7; p < 0.05).
Conclusions: In middle-aged inactive subjects with symptoms of chronic constipation, it is advisable to promote regular physical activity since it improves both the defecation pattern and rectosigmoid or total colonic transit time.