Exercise delivers many benefits, regardless of your health status. In general, it gives you energy, makes you feel good, helps you manage your weight, strengthens your heart, and weight-bearing exercises (such as running or weight training) reduce your risk of osteoporosis.

For people with Crohn's, light to moderate exercise should be a part of your overall treatment program.

Why exercise

1.       It reduces stress and anxiety, which can worsen Crohn's symptoms.

2.       It reduces your risk for other diseases such as colon and rectal cancer, and heart and endocrine disease.

3.       It improves bone and muscle conditioning. Increasing bone mass is particularly important for children, who are still growing, and women, who are at increased risk for osteoporosis.

4.       It increases your quality of life.

5.       It improves symptoms.

6.       It helps you sleep better at night. Some Crohn's patients have trouble sleeping and this can make symptoms worse and lessen your ability to cope with the disease.

Most of the studies on exercising with Crohn's disease were conducted on patients whose symptoms were mild or who were in remission. If your symptoms are active, experts recommend getting them under control before you begin exercising.

The best exercises for people with Crohn's are not too strenuous. Walking is ideal. It raises your heart rate, but not excessively. Since walking is a form of resistance training, it helps preserve bone mass. Tai Chi, an ancient form of Chinese Martial arts, bicycle riding and swimming are also great choices.

Heavy exercise, however, may cause more harm than good. It may induce symptoms and it negatively affects your gastrointestinal system. Intense exercise can inhibit gastric emptying and absorption (already a problem if you have Crohn's disease), and may cause gastrointestinal bleeding.

Misconceptions that that exercise exacerbates Crohn's symptoms have not been proven in patients who exercise at moderate levels.

Before you begin an exercise routine, check with your physician, and be sure you don't have any other health issues that may pose a risk to you.


Light exercise may be good for Crohn's disease


Exercise and Crohn's disease: speculations on potential benefits

Can J Gastroenterol. 2006 Oct;20(10):657-60.

The effects of physical exercise on patients with Crohn's disease

Am J Gastroenterol. 1999 Mar;94(3):697-703

The Physician and Sportsmedicine: Volume 33: No.11

Competing With Crohn's Disease

Exercise and gastrointestinal function and disease: an evidence-based review of risks and benefits.