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4 gentle exercises that will help ease your hangover symptoms

There's a right and wrong way to exercise after drinking too much.
image: Mid adult woman in yoga position on bedroom floor
Child's pose increases circulation and gently compresses your abdomen acting as a manual massage on your intestinal track.Sofie Delauw / Cultura RF/Getty Images

We’ve all heard the technique of “sweating it out” after a night of drinking one too many cocktails. But should you? Dr. Lynn O’Connor, MD, MPH, practicing in New York, says it's probably not a good idea. “Avoid high intensity interval training or extremely strenuous workouts when recovering from a hangover,” she says. "Since hydration is key, full blown intense exercise may do more harm than good as the body is already in a severely dehydrated state and with intense exercise, you may not be able to keep up with the water and electrolyte loss."

But that doesn't mean that you shouldn't move at all.

Since exercise releases endorphins, improves your mood and increases oxygen flow to the brain, it is possible a workout can boost your energy and leave you feeling slightly better. But Dr. O’Connor suggests keeping the exercise sessions light with activities like walking or light jogging on a treadmill.

"As always, drinking a ton of water before, during and after a workout is key," she says. "The body is already dehydrated from the night of drinking, and further exercise without replenishing fluid loss would only worsen how you feel.”

If you feel up to it, getting your body moving and performing these simple stretches can help put you on the road to recovery.

Standing Forward Fold

How to do it: Standing up with your feet as wide as your hips, hands on your waist, slowly fold forward at your hips. Lean forward over your legs, and let your arms and head dangle down in front of you. Hold for a few slow, deep breaths in and out.

Why It Works: Standing forward folds help to calm and soothe the mind and body. They also help with regulating blood pressure (which may be necessary after overdoing it the night before) and relieing head congestion, which sometimes can be felt during a hangover. “Standing in this forward fold helps to stimulate the abdominal organs especially the liver and kidneys which are the main organs involved in detoxification -- something definitely needed after a night of drinking,” says O’Connor. This position may also give you a much-needed energy boost: “This pose allows for blood circulation in your head, giving your cells a rush of energizing oxygen,” says personal trainer, Ngo Okafor.

Child’s Pose

How to do it: On your hands and knees, with your knees directly underneath your hips, slowly press back so that your glutes rest over your heels, and your head is down. Relax your head down onto the ground, and relax your arms.

Why It Works: This pose increases circulation and gently compresses your abdomen acting as a manual massage on your intestinal track. This is especially helpful if you have gas. Take slow, deep breaths while your legs are pressing on your abdomen. “Large quantities of alcohol can not only cause dehydration, but it can delay digestion and cause constipation,” Dr. O’Connor says. “Child’s pose is often thought to stimulate the internal organs, helps to combat the constipation and move digestion along.”

Seated Twist

How to do it: Sitting on the ground, bend your right knee into your chest. Then, put the right foot on the outside of the left thigh. Gently twist towards your knee (to the right). Hold for a few counts, and then switch legs and switch sides.

Why It Works: Twists aid in digestion, and that’s exactly what we want to speed up during a hangover. The quicker we can detoxify the body and move along digestion, the quicker we’ll feel better. “This pose compresses the digestive organs enhancing elimination and digestion while also stimulating the kidneys and liver which eliminates waste from the body,” says O’Connor. Okafor adds, “Twisting yoga poses massage inner muscles and organs, essentially wringing out toxins while bringing in a rush of fresh oxygen and nutrients. This rush of fresh oxygen [may] help lessen the pain of a hangover.”

10-Minute Walk

How to do it: Self explanatory, but you can do any form of cardio at a light pace for about 10 minutes.

Why It Works: Doing 10 minutes of light cardio will help improve circulation. O’Connor recommends keeping the exercise session light with activities like jogging on the treadmill or a walk around the block (some fresh air may also serve you well!). A little rush of endorphins is good, but “sweating it out” with an intense workout will only lead to more dehydration — which you’re already battling during a hangover. So stay hydrated and keep your sweating to a minimum. Further exercise without replenishing fluid loss will only worsen your symptoms.


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