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4. Lower Stress

Stress doesn't cause ulcerative colitis, but many people say it makes their symptoms worse. Physical activity is a great way to beat stress.

Best Exercise: Choose an activity with gentle, relaxing movements. Try yoga, tai chi, or walking.

5. Lift Your Mood

Living with a chronic disease such as ulcerative colitis can wear you down emotionally. Aerobic exercise can boost your mood by triggering your body to make endorphins, the hormones that help relieve pain and give you a sense of well-being.

Best Exercise: Take a brisk walk, go dancing, work out at the gym, or do any activity that you can comfortably enjoy.

6. Prevent Colon Cancer?

Regular exercise lowers the risk of colon cancer for people without UC. An analysis of 52 studies found that people who exercised the most (brisk walking for 5 or 6 hours a week) were 24% less likely to develop colon cancer than those who exercised the least (just a half-hour a week).

Could exercise help prevent colon cancer in people with UC, too? Researchers don't know. It can't hurt to take the chance of this possible bonus effect, though, especially since people with ulcerative colitis are more likely to get colon cancer.

Best Exercise: Work up a sweat by walking fast, biking on hills, or other forms of exercise that really get you moving. If you're just starting out, go slow and gradually build up how hard you're working as you get more fit. For some people, vigorous exercise may trigger cramps and diarrhea, so you may need to back off the intensity a bit or switch to a different kind of exercise.

Exercise Dos and Don'ts for Ulcerative Colitis

Exercise can keep you healthy and improve your life, but your UC may put some limits on the types you do. To exercise comfortably and safely:

  • Use a workout DVD at home if gas or diarrhea makes taking a class uncomfortable.
  • Exercise on a treadmill, rather than outside, if you need to stay close to a restroom.
  • Don't exercise when it's very hot, which can make dehydration more likely.
  • Switch to a gentler kind of workout if you get diarrhea after aerobics or lifting weights.
  • Drink plenty of fluids before and after exercising, especially if you have diarrhea or ostomy discharge. Water is always a good choice. So are sports drinks with glucose or fructose plus electrolytes.