BSc Sports and Exercise Science 

Personal Trainer and

Nutrition Coach 

* Results may vary from person to person 

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Should You Exercise With a Stitch?

August 29, 2019


(2 minute read) 


How often do you get that annoying pain in your side? Yes, most likely that’s a stitch! Should you be exercising through it?


What is a stitch?


The cause of a stitch isn’t completely understood. It is medically known as exercise-related transient abdominal pain (ETAP) and there are a few theories as to why and how a stitch starts. 


Some specialists say it could be cramp in the diaphragm or a spasm in the oblique. Others say it could be a result of irritation to the membrane that lines the abdominal wall (helping to protect your organs). 


Is it safe to exercise with a stitch?


It is pretty harmless, it may be uncomfortable, so slow down or even stop until you ride it out and it goes away. The good news is, it’s common to experience a stitch less as your fitness increases. 


How to reduce stitches?

This may be different for each individual, however, if you get them often give these a go and see what works for you:


Before your workout:

  1. Warm-up well.

  2. Stay hydrated - sip water instead of drinking lots quickly. 

  3. Don’t eat a large meal just before you train, have a smaller meal that isn’t too high in fats as they are slower to digest and you may feel this a little more during your workout. 

  4. Avoid sugary drinks before you exercise, this includes fruit juices.


During your workout:


  1. Take good big deep breaths to get the oxygen your body needs, this will also help stretch your diaphragm. 

  2. Slow down if you get a stitch and take deep breaths. 

  3. Stretch out your abdominal area to help relieve the pain. 


A stitch is a sign that your body is under stress when exercising, however, it is pretty harmless and safe to exercise with a stitch, so don’t worry about it too much. However, if you do get pain often, you may want to seek advice from a healthcare professional to check it is not anything else. 


Hope this helps with those stitches,


Kasia :) 


BSc Sports Science, Women’s Fitness Specialist and Personal Trainer 


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