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Let's talk about the various types of exercise you can and cannot do


Super Moderator
Let's get some fitness talk going. We all have our own unique skills and setbacks with our illness(es), and certain exercises or types of exercise can be anywhere from easy to impossible depending on what your particular health situation is. What exercises are you able to do, what can't you do, and what work-arounds have you found?

For me, I have some type of arthritis in my right hip, and it prevents me from jogging. Sometimes even walking is painful. But I find that stretching out my hip with some yoga moves can really help it feel better. And other forms of cardio that are low-impact don't seem to give me hip pain - I can ride my bike without hip pain. So while I can't jog, I can still do cardio.

One of the work-arounds I've found is that I have to sort of prepare my stomach before doing any type of exercise. I have severe GERD on top of the probable IBD, so I start to reflux pretty quickly when I start working out. Because of this, I need to have an empty stomach for at least 2 hours before working out, and about 15 mins before working out I need to take a Ranitidine (generic Zantac) and a handful of Tums. I can only drink water, I can't even have sports drinks (and of course no food) or I will reflux to the point of vomiting very quickly after starting my workout - just water and antacids, and then I can have an okay workout. I have to go kind of easy on my abdominal muscles during my workout too, or I will end up refluxing quite a lot and possibly end up in pain, too. It's challenging but I can do it as long as I adhere to those stipulations.

What are your limitations and work-arounds, and have you found unique ways of still doing your favorite exercises in spite of the hurdles you face?


Super Moderator
Since my first round of prednisone two years ago I seem to have developed some sensitivities in my knees (and each time I stop pred my withdrawal symptoms include arthritis in my knees and hips). I can't do exercises that require me to put my body weight on my knees for more than a few seconds. It's very painful. The only way I can SOMETIMES get around it is if it is an exercise on a thick foam mat or a folded towel. Bare floors are a no-no it feels like my bone is scraping the floor.

I also have a pin in my hip (non-IBD related) so my range of motion in one leg is limited it can only extend sideways so far before it can't go any further. There are just certain things I have to accept that I won't be able to do because of this like certain pilates moves that involve extending the legs in a certain direction.
I used to really enjoy biking, but having two pretty persistent fistulas has more or less stopped that, as a bike seat would put pretty direct pressure on those sensitive areas. Even when my disease is under pretty good control my butt area is usually sensitive.

I do really enjoy hiking as long as my knees will cooperate (Crohn's arthritis wise) and I'm not flaring to the point of needing to go to the bathroom every half hour (not a lot of bathrooms out there!) Sometimes I'll not eat for 24 hours or so so I can go hiking.

I also like yoga, again if my joints are feeling OK. I only do it at home, because I typically need to stop partway through to go to the bathroom because of some twisting pose or other :).
I am just getting myself sorted from surgery in December, I had my terminal ileum and my cecum removed. Yoga and walking have been the main type of exercise that I have been able to do. I am also going to buy a bike soon, and hopefully start some gentle cycling. I want low impact exercise.
I really want to get started doing my balance ball again. It's low impact and good for weight loss. The only thing holding me back is my lack of willpower with eating. I love veggies and dairy and so much stuff that my tummy now hates. When I stop the bad foods long enough for my tummy to handle that much movement and not mess myself, I have my ball ready to go. :)
I couldn't even think about exercise until the pain was under control. Movement brought agony and fear of more pain. I'd hide in my easy chair and ask like a Princess for my husband to bring me drinks, food, etc. Movement just made it worse not better.

I had to start with very high doses of fish oil and at first, two regular doses of Bufferin each day in addition to the vitamins and Juvenon I was already taking. I also went on several 3-7 day fasts, punctuated by SCD diet re-feedings. This kicked down the arthritic pain and abdominal sensitivity (and bloat) enough that I could risk moving. It was still hard. Bending over would bring a swimming universe of stars after months of inactivity.

(Recently, I added DHEA to my arsenal and it seems to help a lot with the pain. Almost too much in the sense that I have to watch my diet like a hawk because pain won't always tell me I ate the wrong thing. I didn't feel much pain in the GF brownie story below..)

But I was determined to get my health back, and that includes exercise. I started walking outdoors. Actually at first, it was just sitting outside and breathing fresh air. Then it was short walks. Now it is 40 minute walks about every other day. I made a mistake the other day... I had a gluten free brownie, actually two. And the resulting yeast infection (it was pure starch/sugar) showed up within 24 hours, bloated me and set me back pain-wise. So today, I'm drinking magnesium citrate to get the rest of it out, and tomorrow it's back to walking.

I need to do something more intense though. I have the kind of personality that needs more than walking. I get bored out of my mind doing simple things. At the moment though, I'm just glad not to be stuck in a chair anymore.

There's a great book on the effects of exercise on the mind...

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I love walking! We have tons of paved trails through our city, going right down to the river and along the banks. Very pretty! My puppy likes walks too ;)
When I am feeling good, I teach Zumba Fitness and R.I.P.P.E.D. group exercise classes, as well as taking other classes like spin, yoga, pilates, etc and I also run when I have time. I can do most everything, although sometimes i have to take it down a notch, and I have trouble doing any ab workouts as they tend to increase my cramping and abdominal pain for a day or two after.

If i'm in a flare and not feeling so hot, I will take it easy with walking, the elliptical, or swimming based on what I can tolerate. Generally exercising helps reduce my symptoms, gives me more energy, and is a great stress reliever so it makes me feel better overall. Even a short 15 minute walk if you can tolerate it will do lots of good! :)


Super Moderator
Very inspiring LNS87!

I can't wait to start swimming again at the gym. I just ordered some new swim shorts. I think it will be a great low-impact way to get in shape!

I am in my first remission and also recently signed up for my first 5k fun run in August but I need to get back in shape and build up some endurance for it. It's a walk/run but I want to try and run for the first time and want to make sure my knees are strong enough to go through with it. Trying to find an appropriate treadmill or outdoor running routine for beginners that includes proper stretching and joint maintenance. I may try couch to 5k again.
I LIVE for exercise!!
I play netball, GK or GD, so it can be pretty intense :)
I also play volleyball, prefer to be outside hitter but I'm really tall for a girl so am quite handy for the block through the middle... Often play sports of some sort 5 or 6 times a week :)
I'm going to start yoga again, my flexibility is dire! I've played most sports over the past 10 years but my body is just too old for rugby now :(
I'm lucky, i can usually manage a match without a bathroom break.... But I have been known to call a time out for one ;)
I'm with monkey as exercise and physical activity are some of the things that define me.

I do CrossFit and a good deal of Olympic Weightlifting as well as road/mountain biking, and swimming. I did have to give up running thanks to a injury foot I received while doing incline sprints on the treadmill but this is no lose for me as I hated running.

I'd like to do more yoga as I need lots of help with my flexability.
The only thing I really cannot do at all is jog or run. That rhythmic pounding up and down of jogging is enough to make my stomach turn almost immediately. I'm fine with that since I always hated running...although it did interfere with my aspirations to do triathlons.

During flares I pretty much give up on any serious exercise because realistically there's no way you're going to improve your body or performance when the disease is very active. That's not to say I stay on the couch all day but I don't make it a priority to be physically active during a flare. In the past I have done a moderate amount of swimming and cycling while I was fairly sick. I tried weightlifting and it really really does not work out well if you are losing weight.

At the moment I'm competing in powerlifting. When I first resumed training earlier in the year my seton really made my time in the gym a nightmare but I've either learned to ignore it or it's gotten much less painful.

I have several injuries that effect my training but they aren't crohns related.
I've been really lucky that I've been able to keep up with the exercise I love to do. I've never been a good runner, but love to walk. I prefer to do the low impact/strength classes at the gym, although I've tried a few cardio-based classes in the last few weeks and am going ok with them. I make it to one martial arts class a week (most of them are on at night and I'm usually quite tired by then) and I also love pole dancing. I find that exercising around lunch or early afternoon is the most effective for me.
I have been seeing a personal trainer for a while now, and when I am consistently going, it really does some amazing work with my energy and muscles. Unfortunately even at my best, the Crohn's is so unpredictable that I haven't been a regular lately, and I've regressed back to the weights I did when I first started out. I've started seeing a nutritionist, and through the elimination challenge, I found out what types foods I am sensitive too. I really hope with that knowledge, my gut will start healing soon and it will be easier to build muscle - I was advised to take some l-glutamine supplements (which I heard helps with exercise), so we'll see how that goes. My last meeting with the dietician was the first time in a while that I have ever felt this hopeful, keep your fingers crossed!

Anyway, I started yoga a couple of weeks ago, and I have noticed an immediate difference with my flexibilty as well as noticing my "weak spots". I decided that on days when I am feeling crummy, I am at least going to do some yoga. I used to love biking before I had fistulas, but since they haven't been bothering me for a long time, I might try it out again...the same with swimming.
The one thing I absolutely cannot do is running. Not even when I was healthy - I slacked off on the mile run at gym :ylol2:
I'm having trouble with exercise so far. I did a 5K walk and even though I skipped part, I still barely made it back to the bathroom. The balance ball idea is ok, but it also triggers bathroom breaks. I'm in remission, but I'm so tired all the time that I can barely function and am hoping exercise and better vitamins may help.

Does anyone else have this problem during remission? Any other cardio exercise ideas? I'm thinking of trying to ride my bike.


Super Moderator
I'm in remission and experience fatigue from time to time. My B12, Feretin, and hemoglobin levels are finally within range, but still very borderline low (they refuse to get any higher) so I get B12 injections monthly. I'm a very active person now that I am well but I still need to give myself a day or two of rest each week and physically/mentally regroup.

I'm starting to jog/walk intervals outdoors to get some fresh air while I exercise. I am part of a gym and also enjoy group cardio/aerobic exercises when I can fit them into my schedule. Exercising within a group motivates me to push through the fatigue a bit more. I'm trying to push past these mental comfort zones I created when I was too sick and could only rest, no exercise whatsoever.

YouTube Channels has tons of free aerobics exercises. One channel I use is called BeFiT. You can watch all sorts of exercise videos from your computer.

Trying to be more mindful of my diet as well. I notice when it is filled with more fresh/cooked vegetables and protein and less of the carbs or dense foods I am more focused and have a bit more energy to push me through the day. I juice now and then when I don't feel like eating veggies and get the same positive feeling.

I'm having trouble with exercise so far. I did a 5K walk and even though I skipped part, I still barely made it back to the bathroom. The balance ball idea is ok, but it also triggers bathroom breaks. I'm in remission, but I'm so tired all the time that I can barely function and am hoping exercise and better vitamins may help.

Does anyone else have this problem during remission? Any other cardio exercise ideas? I'm thinking of trying to ride my bike.
A bit late jumping on this thread but here goes anyway.
I find elliptical cross trainer or running is a bit like shaking a ketchup bottle for me and can only manage a few minutes before having to sprint to nearest toilet for bm.
In addition to this I try to stay away from cardio as I am desperately trying to increase bodyweight prior to next surgery in October. To this end I prefer to lift weights and keep reps relatively low in the 6-8 range whilst using fairly heavy weight.
The biggest problem for me is a very dodgy core section due to fistula travelling through abdominal wall and this means avoiding anything which directly targets this area and having to use lighter weight but going super strict and slow on anything which hits core indirectly such as standing bicep curls, squats, etc.
The hardest muscle group for me to hit seems to be triceps as pushdowns, pullovers, skullcrushers, etc.. really hit me in a bad way and it seems to only be dips and kickbacks that I can manage.
The other big problem is recurring abscess which when playing up makes it difficult to spend more than a couple of hours out of bed let alone going to gym to hit weights.
I am just getting myself sorted from surgery in December, I had my terminal ileum and my cecum removed. Yoga and walking have been the main type of exercise that I have been able to do. I am also going to buy a bike soon, and hopefully start some gentle cycling. I want low impact exercise.
How about swimming? Great low impact, and there's a bathroom right there if you need it.
I agree with Ginny. If your joints are hurting, water aerobics is an excellent method of exercise - takes all the pressure off your joints. It is also great for strength training because of the water resistance and now they even have aqua Zumba!
Anything that requires bounciness is not doable. Unless bobbing in a pool doing aqua fitness, which I LOVE. Walking is ok, but I have developed a limp due to a damaged tendon in my heel from ages ago... the tendon doesn't always hurt, but it is always too tight to stop the limp. Weirdly, I find that i get more tired if I go for a walk when I have no choice but to limp. I used to dig long walks with my bf... usually we were walking to where the chai lattes were sold, but still.

I cannot run obviously with the tendon thing... if I can be in a pool.. that's all I need.

Can't ride bikes anymore due to sore but syndrome. So get me in a pool and viola.. happy.

I could possibly manage yoga, I think. I used to until my heel tendon issue got worse.
Right now I'm getting back into doing my stationary bike and yoga. Yoga by far is my favorite for many reasons.