Gastroesophageal reflux disease and physical activity

Sports Med. 2006;36(5):385-91. doi: 10.2165/00007256-200636050-00002.


Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is one of the most common disorders in the general population. In recent years, a marked increase in the occurrence of the disease worldwide has been noted. Intense exercise belongs to factors that are known to exacerbate symptoms of GERD. Episodes of reflux seem to be associated with the length and the intensity of the physical activity undertaken. Experimental studies suggest that the gastroesophageal reflux may be increased in athletes due to: decreased gastrointestinal blood flow; alterations of hormone secretion; changes in the motor function of the oesophagus and the ventricle; and the constrained body position during exercise. Disturbances of the balance between two areas of opposite pressure: intra-abdominal and intrathoracic, have also been proven to influence GERD events. GERD is found in sportspeople of various disciplines, but specific types of exercise may have significantly different impacts on the gastroesophageal reflux.Basic prevention of GERD comprise lifestyle and dietary interventions. Adjustments of the exercise load and avoiding meals and drinks about the time of physical effort may ease the symptoms. Unfortunately, in most patients, pharmacological measures are necessary. These include occasional application of antacids and blockers of histamine H2 receptors in mild forms of the disease, and a regular therapy with proton pump inhibitors (PPI) in the majority of other cases. An average dose of PPI varies from 20 to 40 mg/day and should be continued for 4-8 weeks. Unfortunately, symptoms of GERD frequently return and in these situations long-term acid suppression with PPI is usually necessary. As regular physical activity exerts beneficial health effects, the necessity of establishing associations between moderate, recreational exercise and GERD is needed.

MeSH terms

  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux* / drug therapy
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux* / etiology
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux* / physiopathology
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux* / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Physical Exertion / physiology
  • Proton Pump Inhibitors
  • Proton Pumps / administration & dosage
  • Sports Medicine


  • Proton Pump Inhibitors
  • Proton Pumps