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BACKGROUND: As drug use has limitations in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), increasing attention is being paid to nondrug therapies and complementary treatments, especially exercise. It is known that bowel movements are more frequent and colon transit is more rapid in physically active individuals than in sedentary individuals. However, the effects of exercise on IBS are unclear. PURPOSE: We conducted a systematic review to assess the effects of exercise on IBS. METHODS: We searched PubMed, Web of Science, EMBASE, Cochrane Library, and two Chinese databases (Wanfang Database and Chinese Biomedical Literature [CBM]) for eligible studies. We extracted and pooled relevant information regarding the effects of exercise in patients with IBS. The primary outcomes were gastrointestinal symptoms, quality of life, depression, and anxiety. KEY RESULTS: A total of 683 patients with IBS from 14 randomized controlled trials met our inclusion criteria. The exercise interventions in this review were yoga, walking/aerobic physical activity, Tai Ji, mountaineering, and Baduanjin qigong activity. The results of this review suggested exercise had significant benefits for patients with IBS, but studies were limited by the strong risk of bias. CONCLUSIONS AND INFERENCES: Our findings suggest that exercise is potentially a feasible and effective treatment for IBS patients. However, because of methodologic issues, no firm conclusions could be drawn about the true effects of this intervention. Researchers should design a rigorous study to assess the effects of exercise on IBS.