7 Tips for Exercising with Crohn's Disease

  • woman-stretching-on-exercise-mat
    Beyond Your Symptoms
    Most people with Crohn’s disease know all too well the daily interruptions that come from dealing with ongoing gastrointestional symptoms. But when it comes to taking care of yourself, those symptoms don’t have to prevent you from getting the exercise your body needs. In fact, with a few exercise tips, not only can you improve your overall health, you may be able to reduce some of those annoying symptoms in the process.

  • Annual eye exam by optometrist
    1. Talk to Your Doctor
    Not only can exercise help strengthen your immune system, control weight, relieve anxiety and stress, improve mood and sleep, and boost overall health and well-being, it may help people with Crohn’s disease reduce extraintestinal symptoms (symptoms outside the intestines, affecting the eyes, bones, joints, skin or other organs). But it’s important to talk to your doctor before starting an exercise or fitness regimen to discuss your specific needs and desires. For example, if you have an ostomy and want to go swimming, you may need to secure your bag with waterproof tape.

  • Woman walking
    2. Go Low-Impact
    Most doctors recommend low-impact aerobic activities for people with Crohn’s who may suffer from fatigue, nutritional issues and other symptoms. Some good options include brisk walking, bicycling, swimming, yoga and Pilates. Find the activities you enjoy most, and talk to your doctor to see if these are good options for you. Switch back and forth between a few to keep things interesting.

  • sign for public restroom
    3. Find The Bathroom
    Living with Crohn’s means you are probably already used to locating the nearest bathroom whenever traveling, shopping or dining out. This extends to exercising away from home, as well. The increased physicial activity may rev up the bowels, and you may need to make a speedy trip to the restroom. Take regular bathroom breaks to help prevent any accidents. You may also want to carry an extra set of underclothing and moist wipes if you won’t have access to a restroom.

  • Woman eating apple
    4. Don’t Eat Immediately Before Exercising
    It’s a good idea to avoid eating at least two hours before exercising or playing sports. This will give your food a chance to settle and help prevent any GI issues while you are in the midst of your activity.

  • man-walking-on-treadmill
    5. Don’t Go Overboard
    Take it slow as you begin a new exercise regimen.  Don’t do too much or go too fast and pay attention to your energy level and symptoms. As you get into a regular routine, in between flare-ups, you will have a better sense of what your body can handle and then begin to challenge yourself in small increments. As always, talk to your doctor about your progress and if you plan to introduce any new exercises to your routine.

  • Young African American female runner at top of hill smiling and drinking water
    6. Stay Hydrated
    It’s important for everyone to drink water before and during exercise to help prevent dehydration and maintain energy, but it’s especially important for people with Crohn’s disease who are already prone to diarrhea and fatigue. It can also help to avoid extreme changes in body temperature.

  • senior woman lying on yoga mat
    7. Listen to Your Body
    You may not feel up to exercising some days, especially during a flare-up or when you’re feeling extremely tired. Listen to your body, and take a rest or break from exercise when you need it. Once your symptoms,diet and sleep are under control again, you can get back to your routine. If you feel your Crohn’s is interfering with exercise, or you are not able to get the amount of activity you need to maintain your optimal health, talk to your doctor. You may benefit from treatments or dietary changes that help control symptoms, so you can get your energy back and get your body up and running again.

7 Tips for Exercising with Crohn's Disease

About The Author

Susan Fishman, NCC, CRC is a veteran freelance writer with more than 25 years of experience in health education, and a knack for turning complex medical jargon into something the average reader can understand. Her work has been featured in The Washington Post and HuffPost, and on numerous other national health, wellness and parenting sites. She is also a National Certified Counselor and Clinical Rehabilitation Counselor, adding mental health and wellness to her area of expertise.
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  2. Chron Disease. University of Maryland Medical Center. http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/condition/crohns-disease
  3. Crohn’s Disease Nutrition & Exercise. Crohn’sandColitis.com. https://www.crohnsandcolitis.com/living-with-crohns-uc/crohns/diet-and-exercise
  4. IBD Patients Can Benefit from Moderate, Low-Impact Exercise. Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America. http://online.ccfa.org/site/PageServer?pagename=health_tips_exercise
  5. Living with IBD: Tips & Resources. Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America. http://www.ccfa.org/chapters/northwest/programs/living-with-ibd-slides.pdf
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Last Review Date: 2021 Feb 28
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