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Exercising When You Have a GI Disorder

Exercise tips for people with Crohn's disease, irritable bowel syndrome, or other gastrointestinal disorders.

Exercise Tips

Despite the benefits, people with GI disorders do face some obstacles when it comes to getting -- and staying -- in shape. Here are seven tips for making exercising easier when you have a GI disorder.

1. Minimize Impact. Bryant, who is also a fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine, recommends "low-impact activities that aren't going to require a great deal of jarring and jostling. Try yoga, tai chi, Pilates -- exercises with a movement component but a focus on rhythmic breathing. Exercising strengthens the pelvic floor muscles in both men and women and makes exercising safer."

2. Go Uphill. People with incontinence should walk, not run, on treadmills, and increase the track's elevation, Bryant tells WebMD.

3. Map Out the Restrooms. Whether you're in the gym or walking the park, scout out the bathrooms before beginning your workouts. GI conditions vary, but the one commonality is that everyone with leakage "knows where all the bathrooms are," says Sander Binderow, MD, a colorectal surgeon at Saint Joseph's Hospital in Atlanta.

4. Plan Potty Breaks. Use common sense, says Bryant, by going to the bathroom before you start exercising.

5. Choose Your Sports Wisely. Golf, Bryant says, is a lot safer than basketball or jogging.

6. Listen to Your Body. "I'm single and dating and feel fortunate to be in remission so that it doesn't interfere with my life," says Horgan, who is working on her master's degree in social work. But when she feels a flare coming on, she doesn't push herself physically.

7. Keep Your Doctor in the Loop. Don't be shy about talking to your doctors about what happens when you exercise. Additionally, if you are fatigued, unable to eat, or having persistent diarrhea or bleeding, see your doctor, says Ernesto R. Drelichman, MD, director of the Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

When Medications Make You Feel Sick

Both ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease often can be controlled with medication, though surgery is still performed when drugs don't work, Drelichman tells WebMD.

In many cases, he says, medications can lessen symptoms of diarrhea, abdominal cramping, and bloating. Some medications, however, can cause problems themselves, such as weight gain, lack of energy, bone weakening, and dehydration "to the point where you feel like you have a constant hangover," Drelichman says.

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