How Exercise Can Ease Your Crohn's Symptoms

Getting a diagnosis of Crohn's disease-a chronic inflammatory bowel disease-can be challenging. And while there are no known medical cures for Crohn's disease, there are many therapies available to help reduce symptoms and even prompt long-term remissions. An important part of any treatment regimen for Crohn's disease, say experts, should include regular exercise, a crucial component to helping you control your symptoms and improving your quality of life.

Studies are now showing that participating in even moderate exercise, including walking three times a week, improves Crohn's symptoms. Plus, regular exercise has the added benefit of reducing stress. According to the Mayo Clinic, while stress doesn't cause Crohn's disease, it can make symptoms worse and trigger flare-ups because when you're stressed, it alters your normal digestive processes. For example, stress can make the stomach empty more slowly and secrete more acid. It can also speed or slow the passage of intestinal contents.

A regular exercise routine can also alleviate depression, help prevent osteoporosis, a bone-thinning disease, and normalize bowel function.

Getting Started

Before embarking on any exercise program, be sure to talk to your doctor about what the right level of intensity might be best for you to maximize benefit without increasing risk and then choose an exercise that you enjoy doing. Picking an exercise you enjoy can help keep you motivated so you stick with your routine. For example, if you prefer to exercise alone, running, cycling or walking might be good options for you. On the other hand, if you prefer to be in social settings, joining a fitness club or taking a dance class might be the way to go.

Here are some tips to ensure you get the most out of your exercise routine:

  • Pay attention to what your body is telling you. If your body reacts negatively to exercise and you experience a flare-up of symptoms, talk to you doctor about what you can do to continue exercising without encountering problems.

  • Avoid solid foods three hours before aerobic exercise.

  • Drink plenty of fluids before and after your workout to prevent dehydration. Dehydration is a particular concern for Crohn's disease patients who experience chronic diarrhea, which depletes the amount of water in the body.

  • Be sure to eat plenty of protein and calories in small meals throughout the day, rather than three large meals.

  • If you experience diarrhea or other bowel problems during exercise, plan to exercise near a bathroom. If you exercise outdoors, make sure your route has public restrooms along the way.