Toning Up With IBD

Patient Expert
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Exercise is good for everyone — and it's especially good for those of us with IBD, to help keep our muscles and joints working as they should and to increase endorphins to make us feel (even a little bit) better. But how do you know what kinds of exercises won’t send you running to the bathroom mid-workout, or won't simply make you feel like crap? I’ve got some suggestions.



Heavy cardio workouts and running can be too taxing on our guts, and send us straight to the bathroom. But by taking a walk, you’re still building endurance, without a strain on your guts. Walk inside or outside, and walk as long or as far as you want. Make sure you have a good pair of shoes, too. I always try to spend time with a friend during my walks, either next to me or over the phone. It makes the time fly and I often end up walking longer than I normally would.



I could talk about yoga until I’m blue in the face. I’ve done hot yoga, and beginner yoga classes of all styles and shapes. Yoga takes you through slow movements to help build your muscle strength. It’s also a great time to clear your mind, and hone your mental focus. If you like to work out at home, there are plenty of free yoga videos online. If you go to a studio, talk to your instructor! Let her know about your IBD or movements that might be difficult for you.


Yoga at your pace

Yoga instructors are great at modifying their classes based on what their students want and need. You don’t necessarily have to tell your instructor you have IBD. Just let her know what your pain points are.



Pilates is also great if you want to spice up your routine. Most Pilates classes focus on lengthening, strengthening, and breath control, so you learn to breathe with your movements. Pilates works all your muscle groups, and most of the class is usually performed on the floor. You can find free Pilates videos online (I highly recommend Pop Pilates), or find a Pilates studio.


Communication is key

Don’t be afraid to show up to class early and chat with your instructor. You never have to tell someone you have IBD, but it’s always good to let your instructor know your abilities and your limits. They can provide some modifications to certain movements, and give you additional instruction during a class.



Barre is also a great workout experience and puts you through some tough moves to really increase your muscle strength and flexibility. Barre classes usually start with a warm-up where you use very light weight, and your body weight, to work your upper body muscles. Then you work with your abs, legs, and seat to burn out those muscles, as well. Barre is great for activating muscles in your core, and the much smaller muscles that you wouldn’t normally work.

Again, talk to your instructor before class and let her know what you can do easily and what might be difficult. Personally, I have a hard time using my hips, because those joints are always sore. So I just tell my instructor before class, “Hey, I have a hard time using my hips,” and I'm always shown a modification or two.



"Slow" sports are also great, and provide a way for you to connect with others. Think things like golf and bowling. You want to look for sports that require minimal exertion. If you’re up for it, softball is also a fun way to get exercise, without overdoing it. Join a local league, or reach out to your friends and plan a day at the golf course!

And remember — always talk to your doctor and work with him or her to develop an exercise program that’s unique to you.