It may surprise you, but if you have ulcerative colitis (UC), exercise may help you feel better and avoid some of the disease’s frequent complications.
Medically Reviewed by Dr. K 26 Nov 2021.
6 Benefits of Exercise for Ulcerative Colitis Patients
Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease that is similar to Crohn’s disease. It affects your gastrointestinal system and the earliest symptom can be bloody diarrhoea. Check out these fantastic methods to improve your health via exercise. Your doctor may advise you on what kind of exercise is ideal for you, as well as how much of it you should do.
Strengthen Your Bones
Your bones may not be as strong as they should be if you have ulcerative colitis. According to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America, 30% to 60% of individuals with inflammatory bowel illness (including UC and Crohn’s disease) have poor bone density.
This may be due to the disease itself. Cytokines, which are proteins produced in reaction to inflammation, may alter how your body breaks down old bone and builds new bone.
Another reason you may have weaker bones if you have UC could be due to corticosteroids. This medication is used to treat the disease, but can also increase your risk of osteoporosis.
Exercise may assist with some bone pain, regardless of the reason. Bone, like a muscle, is a living substance that strengthens with practice.
Try this: Bones may be strengthened by weight-bearing exercises. It’s a kind of exercise that requires your body to work against gravity, such as lifting weights, walking, climbing stairs, and dancing.
Keep Your Muscles and Joints Working
Inflammation in the joints affects as many as one out of every four individuals with inflammatory bowel disease. Inflammation, as well as corticosteroid usage and nutritional issues, may cause muscles to weaken, putting additional pressure on your joints.
Regular exercise strengthens your muscles and allows your joints to move more freely.
Try this: Weight-bearing exercises benefit both your bones and your muscles and joints. Fast walking, for example, is an aerobic or cardio activity that develops muscles while also strengthening joints. If discomfort makes it difficult to exercise, consider low-impact activities like swimming or cycling.
Stretching should be included in your daily routine to maintain your muscles and keep your joints healthy.
Recover From Surgery Faster
Regular exercise may help you heal faster if you have surgery to treat your ulcerative colitis. It reduces your risk of developing post-operative lung infections by strengthening your respiratory muscles and keeping your blood flowing to avoid blood clots.
Ask your doctor when it’s safe to resume exercising after surgery. If you’re in excellent condition and frequently exercised before your surgery, you should be able to begin as soon as you’re ready. Work out at a slower pace for the first month, maybe 30 to 45 minutes twice a week. However, see your doctor.
Try this: Begin with short walks, stair climbing, or simple fitness video exercises. For the first six weeks following your surgery, avoid strenuous activities or movements like sit-ups, as well as lifting anything more than 5kg.
Lower Stress Level
Although stress does not cause ulcerative colitis, it does make many people’s symptoms worse. Being physically active has been shown to reduce stress.
Try this: Choose a calming pastime with moderate movements. Yoga, tai chi, or walking are all excellent options.
Lift Your Mood
Exercise may not only help you be physically fit but also cope with your emotions if you have ulcerative colitis. Any cardiovascular activity may improve your mood by causing your body to produce endorphins, which are natural pain relievers and feel-good chemicals.
Try this: Take a quick walk, go dancing, work out at the gym, or engage in any other activity that you love.
Help Prevent Colon Cancer
Exercising reducing the risk of developing cancer. Researchers looked at 52 studies and found that individuals who exercised the most (brisk walking for 5 or 6 hours a week) had a 24% lower risk of colon cancer than those who exercised the least (just a half-hour a week).
Could exercise also help individuals with UC avoid colon cancer? That isn’t obvious yet. But, with so many benefits to being active, it can’t harm to give it a go, mainly because ulcerative colitis patients are more prone to get colon cancer.
Try this: Work up a sweat by walking briskly, bicycling up hills, or engaging in other activities that require you to move around a lot. If you’re just getting started, take it easy at first and progressively increase your challenges as your fitness improves. Because intense exercise may cause cramps and diarrhoea in some individuals, you should keep the intensity low or switch to a different kind of exercise.
Exercise Dos and Don’ts for Ulcerative Colitis
Physical exercise may help you stay healthy and enhance your life, but your UC may restrict the kinds of activities you can engage in. To exercise easily and securely, follow these steps:
- Try an online exercise or DVD at home if attending a group class is too unpleasant due to gas or diarrhea.
- If you need to remain near a toilet, walk or jog on a treadmill rather than outdoors.
- When it’s hot outside, avoid exercising since dehydration is more likely.
- If you develop diarrhoea after doing aerobics or lifting weights, try a softer exercise.
- If you have diarrhoea or ostomy discharge, drink lots of water before and after exercise. A glass of water is always an excellent option. Sports drinks containing glucose or fructose as well as electrolytes are also acceptable.
Exercising can help boost your mood and it can be even more beneficial for those who are suffering from diseases such as ulcerative colitis and other inflammatory bowel movement diseases. You can try exercising minimally to set up a comfortable pace before adding more moves.
- National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases: “What People With Inflammatory Bowel Disease Need to Know About Osteoporosis."
- Patricia L. Roberts, MD, professor of surgery, Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston; colorectal surgeon, Lahey Clinic, Burlington, MA.
- Wolin, K. British Journal of Cancer, February 2009.
- American Cancer Society: “The Complete Guide — Nutrition and Physical Activity."
- Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America: “Keeping Fit," “Extraintestinal Complications: Bone Loss," “Living with Ulcerative Colitis."
- Cleveland Clinic: “About laparoscopic intestinal surgery."
- Narula N. and Fedorak R. Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology, May 2008.