Can Exercise Improve Inflammatory Bowel Disease?
More than 50% of IBD patients are looking for alternative ways to treat their disease. Is exercise part of the solution? Research suggests that exercise might play an important role in managing IBD.
The general health benefits of exercise are no secret. Regular exercise is linked to better physical and mental wellbeing. We all know we should exercise, and people with IBD are no exception. They have lots to gain by regular physical activity:
- Studies show that people with IBD who begin an exercise regimen report increased
qualityof life, less stress and fewer IBD-related symptoms compared to those who do not exercise.
- People with IBD are at an increased risk for bone loss (i.e. osteoporosis), and exercise has been shown to improve bone health by increasing bone mineral density and lean body mass.
- Many people with IBD, especially ulcerative colitis, are at an increased risk of developing colon cancer due to prolonged periods of chronic inflammation in the large intestine. Good news, exercise has been shown to help protect against colon cancer.
- Exercise might fight inflammation. Studies performed on animals with colitis have shown that exercise can decrease markers of inflammation.
- Believe it or not, many people with IBD suffer from constipation, sometimes due to overlapping IBS. Fortunately, exercise helps promote regular bowel movements. Just think what happens when you take your dog for a nice long walk!
Exercise Recommendations for People With IBD
- Start Slow: No matter what condition you’re in, take it slow. If you haven’t run a mile since high school gym class then it’s not the best idea to try to run a marathon tomorrow. Intense exercise without proper training can do more harm than good. Make sure to talk to your medical provider before starting anything too intense.
- Stay Hydrated: Sweating during exercise can cause our bodies to lose a lot of water, so hydration is key during activity, especially when it’s hot outside. Hydration can be even trickier for people with IBD. Make sure to hydrate before, during and after your workouts.
- Find what works for you: Just like treatment for IBD, there is no one-size-fits-all exercise protocol. For example, IBD patients with joint pains might feel better with yoga or water aerobics versus high impact activities, like running. Whatever the case, try out different kinds of exercise to see what makes you feel strongest and healthiest.