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Why do I get a stitch when exercising?

Sitting writing a quick blog post on this rainy Wednesday in June... it's something that I often get asked from my clients and there can be sometimes more than one answer. There's still research going into some of the reasons as to why we get a stitch during exercise (more specifically when running), but some of the current beliefs are as follows:

Simply put, you've exercised too soon after eating.

When we exercise, blood travels to our muscles that we are predominantly using in order to provide oxygen and nutrients to help our muscles to continue working during exercise. However, if you have eaten right before you exercise, food is trying to be digested by the body which requires the oxygen to assist with the digestion. Therefore, exercising too soon after a meal may mean that blood is diverted away from the digestive system towards the leg muscles for example, causing the digestive tract to cramp due to the lack of oxygen.

You may notice however that you only tend to get a stitch during cardiovascular endurance sports, such as running, as opposed to weight lifting for example. Although there is still research being conducted in this area as previously mentioned, some believe that the internal organs put pressure on the diaphragm (a muscle that is used to help us breath) and therefore causes the feeling of tightness and cramp. I would perhaps assume that when running you are more regularly taking shallow and shorter breaths, therefore the stitch occurs more commonly compared to when you are lifting weights and are more easily able to control your breathing through deeper inhalations. “Many runners say that if their stitch is on the right side, if they slow their pace and exhale as their left foot hits the ground, the stitch eases,” says McGrattan. It may be worth considering your posture and running technique to ensure that you are running as efficiently as possible - rather than stooped over and restricting blood flow around the body.