If you have Inflammatory Bowel Disease, exercise might be the last thing on your mind. There are times where dealing with exercise, especially in the middle of a flare-up of symptoms such as abdominal pain, diarrhea and fatigue, might be counterproductive. However, once your symptoms have subsided, exercise can be extremely beneficial.
Here are a few reasons why you should consider exercising with IBD (Be sure to check with your physician before beginning any exercise program!):** Exercise may prevent osteoporosis**
Malnutrition, poor absorption of calcium and vitamin D and long-term glucocorticoid therapy put people with IBD at greater risk for osteoporosis. Developing osteoporosis leads to lower bone density and increases the risk of fracture. But exercise is one simple way to help help build bone density. Weight bearing exercise such as lifting weights, walking, stair climbing or any activity that forces the body to work against gravity can help to increase bone density.
Remember: If you are already dealing with osteoporosis, please discuss the safest way to exercise, that limits the risk of potential fracture, with your physician.
Exercise decreases stress
According to the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America stress may be a trigger for flare ups of IBD. While stress does not cause IBD and reducing stress won't cure it- keeping stress at bay may help limit painful symptoms.
Any exercise that you can commit to doing consistently can help to reduce stress levels. Exercises that also include meditation or a focus on breathing like yoga, Tia Chi or Pilates may offer additional calming benefits.
Exercise can help the GI tract function properly.
When you are dealing with IBD, reaching and maintaining proper functioning of your GI tract can become essential in creating a good quality of life. While exercise is not a cure all for IBD symptoms, it has been shown to improve the efficiency of the digestive process and help you to maintain a healthy weight. Both of which are beneficial to our digestive tracts.
When incorporating exercise into your routine regularly to aid digestion, it’s important to find the right intensity level for you and to stay hydrated. Pushing your body too far has been shown to take exercise from beneficial to stressful on the digestive system.
Exercise helps maintain overall health
If you are already dealing with an illness such as IBD, the last thing you need is to suffer with the symptoms of another chronic health condition at the same time. Exercise can help reduce the likelihood of developing some illnesses and can even improve the symptoms of other chronic conditions. The Mayo Clinic states that the symptoms of heart disease, diabetes, asthma, arthritis and even chronic back pain can all improve with appropriate exercises.
**The best exercise for you is one that you enjoy, that you will stick with and that has been approved by your physician for your specific medical needs. Hopefully exercise will become a staple in your arsenal of tools to deal with IBD.
Jennifer has a bachelor's degree in dietetics as well as graduate work in public health and nutrition.She has worked with families dealing with digestive disease, asthma and food allergies for the past 12 years.Jennifer also serves the Board of Directors for Pediatric Adolescent Gastroesophageal Reflux Association (PAGER).