Do not do this before you exercise!


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Guest post by John Turrell, Wellness Coordinator, Greater Portland Branch, YMCA of Southern Maine.

  • Do you like to exercise really hard in the gym?
  • Are you training for a marathon, 10k race or triathlon?
  • Would you like to relieve the pain of the strenuous workouts?
  • Do you take ibuprofen before your workouts and before your races?


Ibuprofen and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are known to damage the lining of the gastrointestinal tract, which can result in bleeding and ulcers over time. Strenuous exercise can also harm the lining of the intestines, at least in the short term.

The combination of ibuprofen and strenuous exercise can amplify the damage. This damage increases intestinal permeability, which could allow toxins and other byproducts from bacteria to seep into the bloodstream.

There’s more.

Some research has shown that taking ibuprofen before exercise may increase the risk of musculoskeletal injuries. It may also delay healing by impairing the synthesis of collagen, a key component of muscles, bone and connective tissue. And ibuprofen may also reduce the response of muscles to exercise and decrease bone formation, which should be the benefits of exercise.

Something else you need to consider: If you have pain that is caused by exercise, your body is sending you a message that you should not ignore it by masking it with pain relievers. This could lead to injury.

There is no good reason to take ibuprofen before you exercise unless you take it for arthritis or another painful musculoskeletal condition that would otherwise prevent you from exercising. If you do need to take something in order to exercise without discomfort, try acetaminophen first since it does not pose the same risk to the digestive tract as NSAIDs do. If that does not work, you should talk with your health care provider.

Taking NSAIDs after exercising may pose less of a risk, but you should wait until you have actual pain and/or inflammation (not anticipated pain). Take the lowest effective dose for the shortest time.

Exercise is one of the most important activities you can do for your health. Be mindful of how intense you exercise. Your ultimate goal should be your health.

Diane Atwood

About Diane Atwood

For more than 20 years, Diane was the health reporter on WCSH 6. Before that, a radiation therapist at Maine Medical Center and after, Manager of Marketing/PR at Mercy Hospital. She now hosts and produces the Catching Health podcast and writes the award-winning blog Catching Health with Diane Atwood.