Can exercise help with gastrointestinal problems?

Updated: 6 hours ago


Exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle for anyone, and especially for people living with a chronic illness like gastrointestinal problems (Inflammatory bowel, ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, Irritable bowel syndrome). Routine physical activity can help those patients manage symptoms more effectively.


Gastrointestinal problems come in many different forms. A few you may be familiar with include:


Inflammatory bowel:A group of inflammatory conditions of the colon and small intestine. the major types of ibd are crohn's disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis.


Ulcerative colitis: A form of inflammatory bowel disease. ulcerative colitis is a form of colitis, a disease of the intestine, specifically the large intestine or colon, that includes characteristic ulcers, or open sores, in the colon.


Irritable bowel syndrome: A widespread condition involving recurrent abdominal pain and diarrhea or constipation, often associated with stress, depression, anxiety, or previous intestinal infection


Exercise Adds to Quality of Life

Studies have found that light exercise can be a great boost for those with Crohn’s disease. One study in particular observed a group of people with Crohn’s disease who started a low-intensity exercise plan, including walking three times a week. Compared to the control group of people with Crohn’s who did not change their exercise habits, the walkers noticed an improvement in their symptoms as well as a positive change in their overall quality of life.


More Benefits from Exercise

Here are other positive ways in which exercise can help people with Crohn's disease:

  • Stress relief. Although it doesn’t cause the condition, emotional strain can make symptoms flare. Physical activity as a great stress reducer.

  • Depression relief. Many people with Crohn’s disease also experience depression. Exercise is a useful tool in counteracting depression.

Crohn’s disease (CD) is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease that affects nearly one million people in the United States and Canada. While current pharmaceutical treatments are effective in controlling symptoms, patients continue to experience a reduced quality of life (QOL). Based on preliminary studies, exercise may decrease CD activity and reduce psychological stress. Current research also suggests that low-intensity exercise does not exacerbate gastrointestinal symptoms and does not lead to flare-ups.


Exercise Essentials: How to Get Started

Exercise should be part of everyone’s life. If you don't yet have a routine, here are some tips to help you get started:

  • Talk to your doctor first. Although research shows that getting regular exercise is great for people with Crohn’s disease, it’s still a good idea to talk to your doctor before getting started.

  • Choose exercises you enjoy. After you get the go-ahead from your doctor, choosing the right exercises will be up to you. A good rule of thumb that can help you stay motivated is to choose exercises that are based on what you like to do. Participate on a group can also be a great source of motivation as you get started with an exercise regimen

  • Listen to your own cues. If your body reacts negatively to exercise, stop and take a break. Paying attention to your body is key: “Whatever form of exercise you can tolerate will help your body when you are well. It’s possible that you can handle very gentle exercise even during an attack.” If you do experience a flare-up of symptoms after exercising, be sure to talk to your doctor.

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