Physical activity may decrease the likelihood of children developing constipation

Acta Paediatr. 2018 Jan;107(1):151-155. doi: 10.1111/apa.14067. Epub 2017 Sep 27.


Aim: Childhood constipation is common. We evaluated children diagnosed with constipation, who were referred to an Icelandic paediatric emergency department, and determined the effect of lifestyle factors on its aetiology.

Methods: The parents of children who were diagnosed with constipation and participated in a phase IIB clinical trial on laxative suppositories answered an online questionnaire about their children's lifestyle and constipation in March-April 2013. The parents of nonconstipated children that visited the paediatric department of Landspitali University Hospital or an Icelandic outpatient clinic answered the same questionnaire.

Results: We analysed responses regarding 190 children aged one year to 18 years: 60 with constipation and 130 without. We found that 40% of the constipated children had recurrent symptoms, 27% had to seek medical attention more than once and 33% received medication per rectum. The 47 of 130 control group subjects aged 10-18 were much more likely to exercise more than three times a week (72%) and for more than a hour (62%) than the 26 of 60 constipated children of the same age (42% and 35%, respectively).

Conclusion: Constipation risk factors varied with age and many children diagnosed with constipation had recurrent symptoms. Physical activity may affect the likelihood of developing constipation in older children.

Keywords: Constipation; Diet; Lifestyle; Outcome; Physical activity.

MeSH terms

  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Constipation / epidemiology*
  • Diet
  • Exercise*
  • Habits
  • Humans
  • Iceland / epidemiology
  • Infant
  • Life Style