elder man and woman stretching on yoga mats

Exercise and Lifestyle Tips for IBD

Ms. Wanni Z

Written by: Ms. Wanni Z

Updated: January 18th, 2023

*Important: Exercise and Lifestyle Tips for IBD is an opinion piece submitted by Wanni, an individual with Inflammatory Bowel Disease. This information should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your physician.*

As someone who has been diagnosed with IBD for over ten years, it has been a non-stop learning experience for myself and many others in my shoes. I have personally found that having a lifestyle and exercise regimen that suits my body and schedule is super important. Not only for your physical health but also your mental health, which both contribute to our overall health and IBD symptoms.

Finding out what works for you individually and sticking to it as much as possible can help you feel good and hopefully remain in remission for as long as possible. Below are a few exercise and lifestyle tips for IBD that I have gained from my own personal experience, that I am excited to share with my fellow IBD warriors!

Consistency > Intensity

Exercise can be as simple as going for a 10-minute walk every day, standing during work (if you have a sit/stand desk), or even just getting up from your chair and walking around your house.

You can eventually build up to 30 minutes a day or more. Ideally, aim for at least 45 minutes of moderate exercise per day. Not only will this contribute to a healthy physical body, but it can also often help de-stress and help you mentally as well.

If you find that you don’t have a large chunk of time, you can do more sessions of exercise (i.e. 30 minutes of walking during lunch break and then another 30 minutes after work, which will easily add up to an hour!)

Exercising doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive. Find an activity you enjoy doing while moving your body. It can be dancing around your room to your favourite music, or even tidying up your basement! Any movement will contribute. Over time, you can incorporate movement as part of your daily routine.

A healthy lifestyle is beyond just consistent exercise: sleep is one of the most important ways to heal your body. I personally find that having a consistent bedtime and wake schedule is very helpful in healing my overall health and the gut.

women with IBD walking outside, a lifestyle tip for IBD

The 90-Day Habit

It can take up to 90 days to build a habit. Start with small, realistic goals so that they are more achievable. For example, instead of aiming for two hours at the gym every day (kudos to you if you can do that!), perhaps aim for a 30 minute walk every week day to start. Eventually, you can build up to 45 minutes or two 30-minute sessions. You can even mix and match, by going for a walk during your break time, and then a gym session a few times a week.

It is easier to stick to a habit you enjoy. If the gym is not for you, that is completely normal. There are SO many different types of exercise that can help with IBD. Most recreation centres have daily drop-in swims if that is something you enjoy, there are free YouTube at-home workout videos you can do at the convenience of your own time, or take a class that is completely new to you! (i.e. hot yoga, dance, pilates). Taking a class can also be an amazing way to network and gain new friends who share the same hobby as you!

Start small and build. Perhaps it’s difficult to sleep at your target time everyday. You can try by starting one day a week and slowly build up from there. For example, I find stopping the usage of cell phones earlier in the evening, having a nice hot bath, and doing some meditation and breathing exercises very helpful in relaxing the mind and body for an early sleep time.

Reminders to Self

It’s easy for time to fly by and forget or skip your exercise sessions. You can overcome this by using tools and prompts that are helpful to you. For example, you can set phone reminders to yourself to get up and move your body, if you are an agenda/planner person you can block off time every day to ensure that you can follow through with your exercise plans.

Don’t forget to treat yourself! If you have consistently accomplished a new healthy habit – whether it’s improving your sleep schedule or having a better movement habit – treat yourself by doing something you’ve always wanted. Whether it’s getting a new item you have been wanting for a while, going to a restaurant you have been seeing, or simply taking some time off for self-care, it’s important to reward yourself and enjoy.

Try Planning Ahead

Planning will help you avoid situations where you were “too busy” and “didn’t have time.” For example, I often check my schedule a week in advance so I know which days I am not working late. This way I know when I can fit in time to do an at-home workout, which days I have time during lunch to go for a walk, and which days my community centre is free for programs I enjoy.

It is important to not over book yourself, so that you can allow sufficient time for rest. I often find that when I say yes to everything I want to attend, I may overwhelm my social battery and may need extra time to sleep. Thus, I find that not over booking myself and learning to say no or rescheduling is crucial to maintaining a balanced lifestyle.

It’s All About Balance!

It is important to have rest days, as sleep and recovery is essential to a healthy lifestyle. It’s also okay to have lazy days. Days where you stay out much later than usual for special occasions, or days you are not sticking to your diet. I often find the 80/20 rule such a useful tool – being responsible to my lifestyle/diet/exercise around 80 percent of the time, and have the other 20 percent dedicated to doing things I enjoy such as dining out and eating things that are not part of my clean diet, having days where I skipped my exercise routine, or days when I stayed up later than usual. I hope these lifestyle tips for IBD have been helpful for you, and remember – life is all about balance!

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