Let’s face it: Exercising really does make you feel better. Even a single bout of exercise can lift your mood and kick your stress to the curb. Getting a good workout that’s right for you means understanding your body and your unique needs. That’s why it’s important to brush up on how to restart, maintain, or increase your activity levels if you’re diagnosed with Crohn’s disease.
Whether you’re on the lookout for the best exercises when dealing with a flare, or you simply want to try a new activity, here’s everything you need to know about working out with Crohn’s disease.
If you’re not feeling your best, that’s OK. Every workout can be modified to fit your needs.
Two key areas to consider are impact and speed. To reduce impact and make a workout easier, try to eliminate anything where your feet hit the floor, like jumping. To reduce speed, work out at a slower pace (such as walking instead of jogging, or opting for a light cycle session).
You can also modify your workout by changing the range of motion. Decreasing your range of motion will be less taxing on your body. For example, if you’re experiencing stomach pain, reduce or cut out exercises that require you to crunch or twist your abdomen.
In addition, you can also change the amount of weight or reps your workout requires.
When you’re truly not feeling well or having a more serious flare, however, it’s important to let your body rest. Crohn’s disease can cause you to feel fatigued, so if you do exercise, you may want to consider low impact aerobic activities like cycling, swimming, water aerobics, or walking. A high impact exercise could potentially make your fatigue or other symptoms worse.
Yoga may also be beneficial for any joint pain related to flares. If you’re experiencing frequent or urgent bowel movements, finding a place to work out that’s close to a bathroom can help you feel more comfortable during your exercise. This can also allow you to manage symptoms.
People experiencing mobility concerns can also stay active at home. Thanks to online videos and hundreds of free and paid fitness apps, you can work out from the comfort of your living room, basement, and more. You can also find free chair exercises online for a light workout.
Mental blocks happen, even to the best of us. Dealing with a chronic condition can present challenges, such as feeling disappointed that your body isn’t up for a workout, or having to modify a workout. But that doesn’t mean those feelings can’t be managed.
There are many steps you can take to overcome these mental blocks and more.
Here are a few smart tips to try when it comes to working out:
- Set realistic exercise goals and modify as needed.
- Exercise with a friend to help boost your motivation (and theirs).
- Try exercises that make you feel good, like dancing or walking.
- Don’t force yourself to “snap out of it,” but rather aim to feel a bit better each day.
- Practice yoga or tai chi to help lower stress and anxiety levels.
- Practice constructive self-talk, such as “I did the best I could.”
Exercise can go a long way in benefiting Crohn’s disease.
While practicing a regular exercise routine can improve overall health for just about everyone, it can be especially helpful for people managing this condition. Working out can reduce stress and maintain or improve bone health, while also boosting your body’s immune system.
Keeping stress levels low can go a long way in managing symptoms or flares. Since the brain and gut are connected, stress can negatively impact your digestive system. It can change how quickly food moves through your body, which can then result in diarrhea or constipation. Stress can also cause stomach pain, nausea, discomfort, and changes in gut immune response.
Exercise can also help with fatigue. As one of the main symptoms of Crohn’s disease, fatigue, especially in chronic form, can be tough to deal with. Yet, just a 15-minute walk can give you an energy boost, making you feel less tired.
Plus, exercising can actually reduce disease activity — by a lot. A study found that more than 84 percent of participants with inflammatory bowel disease engaging in daily physical activity presented with inactive disease, while only 15 percent of participants who did not engage in daily physical activity presented with inactive disease. That’s a nearly 70 percent difference thanks to working out.
Exercise can be an important tool in managing Crohn’s disease. How and when you exercise can be modified based on your needs, so creating a workout that’s right for you is key. To figure out an exercise regimen that works well for your body, ask your doctor for recommendations.
But don’t avoid rest. If your body is telling you that you’re just not up for exercising, it’s OK to cut a workout from your routine. You can always resume any physical activity once your symptoms subside.