Everybody needs exercise to stay healthy. When you have ulcerative colitis, exercise can help you feel better and prevent related problems.
Below are six reasons why exercise is good for someone with UC, along with suggestions for the kinds of activities to do. Your doctor can help you decide which and how much exercise is best for you.
1. Strengthen Your Bones
Because you have ulcerative colitis, your bones might not be as strong as they should be. Thirty percent to 60% of people with inflammatory bowel disease (including UC and Crohn's disease) have low bone density, according to the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America.
This could be because of the disease itself. Proteins called cytokines that are part of your body's inflammatory response may change how your body breaks down old bone and creates new bone.
Corticosteroids, used to treat UC, also raise your chance of developing osteoporosis.
Whatever the reason, you can do something about it. Because bone, like muscle, is living tissue that gets stronger with exercise, physical activity can help fight thinning bones.
Best Exercise: Weight-bearing exercise -- the kind that makes your body work against gravity -- strengthens bones. That includes using weights as well as walking, climbing stairs, and even dancing, because your body counts as weight.
2. Keep Your Muscles and Joints Working
As many as 1 of every 4 people with inflammatory bowel disease has inflammation in their joints, too. Inflammation, as well as taking corticosteroids and poor nutrition, can lead to weaker muscles, which puts more strain on your joints.
Exercise can help both problems. Regular exercise makes muscles stronger, and it helps joints move more easily.
Best Exercise: The weight-bearing exercises that help your bones also help your muscles and joints. Aerobic or cardio exercise that gets your heart beating faster, such as fast walking, builds muscles and strengthens joints, too. If pain makes it tough, try low-impact exercises such as swimming or cycling.
Stretching should also be part of your exercise routine to help keep your muscles and joints flexible.
3. Recover From Surgery Faster
If you need to have surgery for ulcerative colitis, regular exercise may make your recovery easier. It strengthens your muscles, keeps your blood circulating to prevent blood clots, and helps keep your lungs clear.
After surgery, ask your doctor when it's OK to start exercising again. If you're in good shape and you exercised regularly before your surgery, you can probably start as soon as you feel up to it. For the first month, you may want to work out more slowly, perhaps for 30 to 45 minutes twice a week. Again, check with your doctor.
Best Exercise: Start with walking, going up and down stairs, or working out to an easy fitness video. You'll need to pass on exercises such as sit-ups, strenuous activity, or lifting anything heavier than 15 pounds for about 6 weeks after abdominal surgery.