Peta Bee: How to avoid a stitch

Do change your breathing pattern. A side stitch is your body’s way of telling you to make more room for breathing. To alleviate it, slow down and steady your breathing. If you get a stitch on the right side, exhale forcefully as your left foot hits the ground. Do the opposite if you get a stitch on the left side.

Don’t run too soon after meals. Scientists aren’t sure what causes a stitch but one theory is that it is caused by irritation of the parietal peritoneum – layers of membrane inside the abdominal cavity. It is thought that a full stomach worsens this friction. Allow 2-4 hours before exercising after a big meal.

Don’t run before you can powerwalk. A stitch can be minimised by following an exercise regimen that progresses steadily in duration and intensity.

Do sip sports drinks or water during intense exercise. Dehydration can cause a stitch; it can also be triggered by fruit juice and squash emptying slowly from the stomach.

Do strengthen your abdominal muscles. During exercise our internal organs bounce up and down, pulling on the diaphragm muscles. If this tugging occurs when the diaphragm moves upwards – or when we breathe out – the strain is so great that it causes a stitch.

And the best exercise:

The bridge, a Pilates-style exercise, works many of your core muscles to strengthen your abdominal area. Lie on your back with your knees bent. Keep your back in a neutral position – not overly arched but not pressed into the floor. Contract your abdominal muscles and raise your hips off the floor. Align them with your knees and shoulders and hold for three deep breaths. Return to the start position and repeat.

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