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Taking Charge of Your IBD

(Trying to) Exercise with IBD

Exercise has always been a huge part of my life. I was a competitive swimmer before I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis and remained one until I physically couldn’t keep up anymore. The endorphins that come with exercising help my mental health more than anything.

Unfortunately, when you are ill, exercising is pretty impossible. It is also difficult when you are in pain, haven’t slept, can’t eat the nutrients you need, are lacking in energy, etc.

I have become in love with a health and fitness company that I follow on social media.

The company is not just about fitness, but rather focuses on improving your life so you love the skin you are in. It is about balance. So much is about showing your body you can do whatever you set your mind to. Pushing yourself is also a huge part of it all, as I continue to read more about it.

I often wonder how any of that applies to me. Meaning, I can’t be someone who just pushes themselves with the mentality of “no pain, no gain” because I could truly injure myself. The trial and error that comes with it can cause a hernia which would mean another surgery. I don’t have the energy to exercise a lot of the time so when most people will say “excuses don’t get results”- I find my excuses to be very valid. I also find that listening to my body when I cannot exercise to be the smart thing to do.

It is, however, frustrating that my body won’t allow me to do the kind of workouts that I want.

I would love to try different things and immerse myself in the community of this company (the name isn’t important right now) but because my body has been through so much with my inflammatory bowel disease, I worry about overdoing it.

I am not sure if other people feel similarly but if you do, it is something that would be a great topic for us to talk about together. Obviously, every person who suffers from Crohn’s Disease or ulcerative colitis (IBD) has a different physical situation but it is still comforting to know we aren’t alone. It is also nice to share some tips along the way. For example, as hard as it may be, I have learned that exercising before ingesting any nutrients is a recipe for disaster for me. Even doing my low key workouts. It has been a HUGE adjustment (I was never someone who even consumed food during the day) but it is something I have slowly become okay with. To an extent. 🙂

I also realize that if I am in pain (which is pretty daily) and don’t have the necessary medications to help me afterwards, I am going myself a huge disservice.

Do you ever feel this way? Can you relate in some way at all? Is exercising a positive for you mentally? Do you find yourself pushing yourself when you know it may not be the best thing? Do you often compare yourself to those who don’t have the physical challenges you do?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • hallieb18
    1 year ago

    This topic has been a struggle for me recently since mentally I love working out, not being active or at the gym just makes me feel upset about myself. I was just diagnosed wirh chrons disease a few months ago and before my diagnosis I was so ill I couldn’t workout like I used to. I had to cancel my membership until I finally found the right medications I was not longer in pain I forgot I had this disease, my weights went back up in the gym I was able to eat again and now I’m in my first flare and I’m trying to accept the fact that sometimes I just can’t go workout and I need to be okay with that. But seeing all over social media all the fitness accounts and knowing how you want ur body to look and build muscle and realizing this disease you can’t be consistent all the time is something I’m really struggling with right now, this post randomly popped up on my Facebook and it’s something I really needed to see thank you for that!

  • Pam.Kingsland moderator
    1 year ago

    Hi @hallieb18, I completely understand and can relate. As important as it is to listen to your body and let it rest when it needs to, I understand the struggle of wanting to be active when you can’t be. Thanks for sharing and welcome to our community! I hope you find some relief soon. Keep us updated on how you’re doing, if you can! 🙂 – Pam (team member)

  • thedancingcrohnie moderator
    1 year ago

    Exercising is THE best way for me to release endorphins. I truly feel the best after a good workout. But, when I’m flaring, it is impossible for me to workout. I have zero energy and there is just no way. Now that my symptoms are under control, I am slowly getting back into it but again, if I have symptoms, working out is a not happening, and that is okay! We have to listen to our bodies.

    Always dancing,
    Elizabeth (team member)

  • Gingergal
    1 year ago

    Hi there,

    Normally, I just read these articles and never comment, but this caught my attention. First, I’m not in shape right now by any means. I have Crohn’s and Remicade stopped working for me recently and caused “Remicade Induced Psoriasis.” Apparently, this can occur after long term use of some biodrugs, but symptoms go away a week or so after you stop using them. So, I’m back to transitioning to remission with Prednisone. That in itself is depressing me because of the water weight. My love of pizza and martinis isn’t helping I’m sure… but my new outlook on exercise is getting me back on the fitness wagon.

    I was a runner. I lifted weights. I did the Jillian Relentless Trainer Workouts. Before Crohn’s, I identified as a fit person with few limitations. Now, I’m a achey a lot and strenuous workouts induce flare ups where the only running I can do is finding a public restroom. So… not… worth… it. I continued trying to be my old self off and on for years, but only ended up in this yoyo weight cycle. It’s frustrating because I wasn’t allowing myself to be forgiving or accepting of the fact that I do indeed have a chronic, painful, energy sapping illness. This triggered depression because I blamed myself for “being lazy,” instead of accepting that I can no longer be the Jillian Michaels prodigy I once was.

    Currently, I’m allowing myself to identify as a 45 year old, stressed out female teacher who likes exercise, but needs to choose times, places, and workouts appropriate for someone with chronic illness. I exercise in my home and garage instead of the gym. I do 30 minute beginner workouts instead of hour long sessions with relentless trainers. I walk instead of running. Most importantly, I listen to my body and I’m more kind to it because even on good days, it’s constantly working hard to fight Crohn’s in addition to all it’s other jobs. Also, I stopped blaming myself and being angry about this thing I cannot control … and eat less pizza because I can’t just run off the calories like I used to 🙂

    Maybe this helps, but mostly I wanted to share because no one in my life understands life with IBD other than my mother who feels guilt that I have Crohn’s too.

  • jbac3monachelli
    1 year ago

    Pouchitis, inflammation of the j pouch, is just like UC but in the pouch instead of the colon. So that makes it another disease within the IBD family, right? I would love to see more info regarding pouchitis; there are a lot of us who suffer from it. UC caused me to have my colon removed and replaced with a j pouch. Now pouchitis is causing similar symptoms and further research is needed. Thank you!

  • Brooke Abbott moderator
    1 year ago

    Hi Jbac3monachelli,

    Thanks for writing in. Yes, a lot of us do suffer from pouchitis or chronic pouchitis. What kind of information are you looking for? I know we have a few articles here. Are you curious about symptoms, treatment…? Let us know. We are here to help!
    Have a good night!
    ( Team Member)

  • Jeana C
    2 years ago

    Thank you for this post. I have been feeling so lost about this subject. 2 years ago I started a mission of eating healthier, exercising and getting healthier. I ended up losing 100 lbs….and then came my hospitalization last June. I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease which had been developing in my body for several years. It seems my year long quest for a healthy lifestyle actually progressed my Crohn’s. All the healthy fruits and veggies I was eating was destroying my small intestine. After my week long hospitalization I lost so much. My diet now consisted of a soft diet that was white carb filled. Basically everything I learned to avoid, became new stars in my diet. And my exercise went South due to no energy and constant pain. On story short, here I am almost another year later. I was diagnosed as severely anemic. I take regular iron infusions and vitamin B injections and am facing my first resection. I try and workout, but nothing like I used too. All I want is to be able to feel up to working out 4-5 times a week and continue on my journey. I’m sure I will never have that normal again. I guess all I can hope for is somewhere in between. Thank you again all the understanding g words. It is nice to know I’m not alone!

  • Marisa Lauren Troy moderator author
    2 years ago

    Hi Jeana,

    I am so sorry you can relate but glad you came across the article. I can really understand everything you said and how frustrating/hopeless it can feel. It causes me so much mental angst that I cannot eat healthy foods and really have very little control or say in what I consume. Like you, I would love to get back into a good routine with eating and exercising so you’re definitely not alone. I hope some of the treatments they are giving you will allow you to get back to being able to exercise a little bit. If not now, hopefully with time. Please know we are always here for support and really understand! Sending lots of love and support. I am not exactly sure how this friend request works on the website but feel free to send me a message privately if you ever want to chat.

  • 2 years ago

    Before I was diagnosed, in 2012, I was doing Zumba twice a week and yoga twice a week and jogging. I tried to keep up but it was no use. My body craved to exercise, but I couldn’t (physically) make myself do it. I still want to get back to where i was but i cant. I feel like all i do is make excuses and nobody seems to understand. I feel alone. Except for yall anyways. Have you found anything that helps with y’alls diet? I know one that helps one person might not help another, but it might give me an idea. And thank ya for listening!

  • Marisa Lauren Troy moderator author
    2 years ago

    Hi there! First, I want to say that I am so sorry you feel alone and am glad you found our community. Feeling alone (which made me feel kind of crazy) is one of the worst feelings about living with IBD, in my opinion. There are so many discussions about meds, treatments, etc but not a lot about just HOW much this disease can impact you. Ex, the fact that exercise is great for so many of us for emotional reasons (let alone the physical benefits) but our bodies often won’t allow it. Like you, I kept feeling like all I did was make excuses but I hope you know that those “excuses” are SO VALID. I have trouble internalizing that also but when I really think about it…its the truth. Do you have specific questions about diet that maybe I can help with?

  • Deborah
    3 years ago

    I am so grateful for this conversation. Before becoming sick, I ran 3-5 miles and was in good shape. Due to pain and fatigue that’s not an option it seems. As well, due to eating habits, such as late night or high calorie foods that do not cause discomfort weight has become a roller coaster.
    Thanks again for sharing. Means so much to understand more by others experiences.

  • Marisa Lauren Troy moderator author
    2 years ago

    Hi Deborah, I greatly apologize for the year long delay in this response!! I am glad you found the article helpful, although I wish you couldn’t relate if that makes sense :). It is so awful when exercise was such a big part of your life and then through no fault of your own, you just can’t really do it anymore. Plus, when you have to eat foods that are good for your IBD, some of them might not be the healthiest or low in calories, etc like you mentioned. I wish my “safe foods” were fruits and veggies 🙂 Please know we are always here for support and I am working on being alot better at responding to people’s comments on my posts. It means SO much to me that you not only took the time to read but commented as well. Sending lots of love and support.

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