Impact of Exercise of IBD

People with IBD are less likely to report active lifestyles compared to the general population. But, there is promising but limited evidence that exercise can protect against developing and managing IBD. More research in this area is needed. 

Onset of disease

There have been several studies examining the role an active lifestyle may play in protecting against the development of IBD. Studies have linked physical activity to reduced risk of the onset of IBD, but evidence is still weak. 

Generally, higher levels of physical activity were associated with a reduced risk of developing Crohn’s, compared to those with low levels of physical activity. There was no association between physical activity and developing ulcerative colitis.

It was also found that occupations involving physical activity and working outdoors were protective against the development of IBD compared to more sedentary and indoor occupations. IBD was more prevalent in patients with sedentary or less physically demanding jobs. Excessive sitting, on the other hand, was associated with a two-fold increase in IBD incidence.

Another study reported patients who exercised regularly in the previous 5 years were at a decreased risk for developing Crohn's, especially if they exercised daily. 

Some explanations for this reduced risk is that exercise has anti-inflammatory effects, which can decrease the likelihood of developing Crohn's. People who exercise are also more likely to have other healthy habits, such as eating healthy, not smoking, sleeping better and feeling less stressed.

Study participants reported that exercise contributed to overall feelings of confidence, boosted energy, improved well-being, feeling fitter or healthier, weight control, and improved sleep.

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Course of the disease

Environmental factors such as exercise can influence the course of IBD, but little is known about the role of exercise in disease activity. It was found however, that patients with higher exercise levels in remission were less likely to develop active disease at six months.

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