We need to be crystal clear here: if you are at the height of an IBD flare-up, we do not recommend physical exercise. If you are experiencing severe symptoms of the disease, we advise a patient to immediately discuss treatment options with their doctor.
At Food Rx, we recommend using dietary modification or a medication regimen recommended by your doctor to get your symptoms under control before beginning an exercise program of any kind. But once you are feeling well enough to begin working out, we believe it is critical to exercise regularly to enjoy the many health benefits it provides, which include: reduced risk of colon cancer, a strengthened immune system, improved mental health, the prevention of depression, the improvement or maintenance of positive self-esteem, and the potential enhancement of an individual’s body image. [1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8]
You should be aware that individuals with ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease involving the colon are at a greater risk of developing colon cancer. Although the incidence of colon cancer in IBD patients appears to be declining over time – a welcome trend! – some studies still suggest that the disease increases your likelihood of developing this type of cancer by as much as five times.
The risk of developing colon cancer increases after someone has had the disease for 8 years or more, at which point colonoscopies should be performed every 1 to 2 years as a precautionary measure. But we don’t want you to live in fear of cancer either. The reality is that more than 90 percent of IBD patients will never develop cancer, despite the increased risk. Still, we recommend routine exercise as another precautionary measure.
Next Section: Examining the Science
 Lee, I.M. Physical activity and cancer prevention – data from epidemiologic studies. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 2003; 35: (11), 1823–27.
 Wolin et al. Physical activity and colon cancer prevention: a meta-analysis. British Journal of Cancer, 2009.
 Landro, Lauren. The Hidden Benefits of Exercise: Even Moderate Physical Activity Can Boost the Immune System and Protect Against Chronic Diseases.‖ The Wall Street Journal. Jan 1, 2010.
 Nieman, DC. Current perspective on exercise immunology. Curr Sports Med Rep. 2003; Oct;2(5):239-42.
 Colcombe, S. et al. Fitness effects on the cognitive function of older adults: a meta-analytic study. Psychological Science. 2003; 14:125-130.
 Dunn, A.L., et al. The DOSE study: A clinical trial to examine efficacy and dose response of exercise as treatment for depression. Controlled Clinical Trials. 2002; 23 (5): 584–603.
 Callaghan, P. Exercise: A neglected intervention in mental health care? Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing. 2004; 11: 476–83.
 McAuley, E., et al. Physical activity, self-esteem, and self-efficacy relationships in older adults: A randomized controlled trial. Annals of Behavioral Medicine. 2000; 22 (2):131–39.
 Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America. Colorectal Cancer. 2009.
 WebMD. Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Colon Cancer. 2010.