Exercise and IBD


So yesterday, I took to social media and asked you all what you wanted me to blog about this week. The answer was a resounding ‘yes’ for talking more about exercise and chronic illness (in particular IBD). This was perfect timing as I’d just been sent some lovely fitness bits from JD Williams so the fact that I had the gear and you also wanted to read it, meant there was no excuse!

You might know from my Gut New Year’s Resolutions post that a big focus for 2018 for me is to try to increase the amount of exercise I do. Well, I’ve got off to a good start and I’m booked for my first Pilates class tonight-eek! (I am not a massive fan of group exercise; I’ll share why in a moment!)

But I know it’s not as easy as just telling you to exercise- having an illness like IBD can make that tricky at times for so many reasons-whether its fear of being ill at the gym, lack of energy or struggling to stay hydrated. However, it can also obviously be really beneficial- so I am going to outline the benefits, the drawbacks and my top tips for exercising with IBD.

How can exercise help those of us with IBD?

(All smiles during yoga. Top-Next, Leggings-Nike from JD Williams)

Evidence suggests that whilst exercise might not help IBD directly, it can, in fact, help a lot with the extra-intestinal manifestations of IBD.

  • It can definitely help with fatigue, which I know is a massive issue for a lot of my readers. A study, published in the November issue of the journal Psychological Bulletin found using exercise was more effective than using drugs when treating fatigue. (source). It helps deliver nutrients and oxygen to our tissues and helps all body systems work effectively.
  • Exercise can drastically help with improved moods and self-esteem; something I talked about in the Psychological Aspects of IBD.
  • It can help battle stress; which as a result will help with steadying cortisol levels. This is vital in preventing inflammation. This is definitely one of the things that helps me most during stressful periods.
  • It can also help maximise bone density– important since many IBD patients suffer from osteoporosis.

Things to be mindful of (potential problems with exercise and IBD)

  • Intensive exercise can cause the movement of food to speed up through the gut. This is why Runner’s Diarrhea exists!
  • Patients with IBD are at more risks of dehydration, so it’s essential to stay hydrated and consider the type of exercise you do when flaring.

My top tips for exercising with IBD

 Me attempting to look like a person who regularly exercises. Sports Snood and leggings- JD Williams. Trainers- New Balance.

  • Get outside: Exercising outside has double the benefit. Not only does it mean it’s easily accessible but it also helps us with a much needed vitamin D boost! 
  • Do it at home. If there’s one thing that puts me off exercise, it’s having to do it in a class of 30 people! So, if you’re the same, why not try an online streaming service-I use Yogaia to do online yoga classes. You literally just need a mat!
  • Always stay hydrated. Remember that sometimes, water isn’t enough, and if you know you have a risk of dehydrated or are doing prolonged exercise, you may need a proper re-hydration solution.
  • Wash after exercise. This is obvious but particularly important for those with fistulas.
  • Avoid formulated protein powders and runner’s as they can be crammed with sweeteners and whey; which can upset the gut.
  • Make sure your kit offers support. One of the first thing I did when starting yoga, was to invest in a thicker mat; as a regular one really caused by bones to ache and dig-in. Wear layered items (like below) so you can easily adapt to your changing temperatures. 100% cotton clothing may help if you suffer with psoriasis or other skin conditions.


  • Always keep food close at hand for after workout to keep blood sugar steady. Try nut butter and rice cakes or a banana.
  • Start with low intensity workouts. Everything seems to be about cardio, cardio, cardio at the moment; but low intensity workouts like yoga, walking and swimming put far less pressure on the body.
  • Don’t be embarrassed-listen to your body. A final note about group exercise classes. One of the reasons I hate them because sometimes I have to stop, nip to the loo or just rest for a moment- it’s embarassing to look like you’re ignoring the instructor BUT put your body first and if it feels too much, stop!

I hope you enjoyed this post! Wish me luck for Pilates this evening and let me know your tips and experiences with exercise! I know my husband would love us to do another 10k together, but that doesn’t seem possible for me at the moment (I’d be far too worried I’d need to rush off to the loo or my fistula wound would get irritated) I’d love to hear any tips.

*Thanks to JD Williams for offering me some lovely fitness gear to get my exercise goals started*


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