Whenever Serena Ehrlich goes someplace new, she scouts out the location of the bathroom. That's because Ehrlich, 38, a Los Angeles-based salesperson for a commercial wire service, has ulcerative colitis. She developed the disease 12 years ago and has been in remission for the past three. Still, the old habit lingers. "Everyone who has ulcerative colitis will tell you that when you walk into a bookstore, a shop, or a restaurant, that's the one thing you want to know first. It's our rule of thumb."
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.