***This post references “The Autoimmune Wellness Handbook” and “Healthy Gut Healthy You”
Being active is something I am super passionate about. I was an athlete for more than half my life so moving around is essential for me. It has been shown that being active can actually help to encourage healing rather than prevent it from happening. However, being diagnosed with IBD, especially when you feel like shit, makes it hard to know whether or not being active is the right decision for you. I’ll be honest, when I was diagnosed (right in the middle of my collegiate athletic career) and in the heat of a really bad flare, I was told that I would never be able to workout or be active again…extreme much? Clearly I was completely broken over this, but I was determined to figure out how I could try and get back into some similar form to what I was prior to diagnosis.
I personally feel that being active, even with moderate to severe IBD, is super important! I feel like the words exercise, or being active, get a connotation that you need to be running miles and miles or lifting extremely heavy weights, but that is not even remotely close to what I am talking about when I reference being active. What I mean is more to get your body moving in some way, shape, or form. This could simply be walking, doing gentle yoga, or cycling. There have been many research articles and books that reference the importance of being physically active even after diagnosis. I recently read “The Autoimmune Wellness Handbook” by Mickey Trescott and Angie Alt (you will see me reference this ALOT, go to my resource page to get this book!) where they dedicated a whole chapter to movement. Right away they go through a laundry list of positive benefits of being active which some people are aware of like improved heart health, managing your stress levels helping with sleep, and improving your mood. What I found interesting were some other things they listed like how being active can actually prevent disease, can aid in the movement of your lymph fluid which has many positive effects on your body, and strengthen more than just your muscles but your bones as well. In “Healthy Gut Healthy You” by Dr. Michael Ruscio (purchase through my resource page), he explains the importance of exercise and its positive effects it can have on your microbiota and gut health (hence the title of his book!).
So now you might be thinking, “I am in the middle of a bad flare and running to the bathroom 30+ times a day, you really want me to leave the bathroom and be active”? Yes, yes I do. There are numerous resources that show the importance that exercise can have on your overall health and helping to aid in healing, so why not give it a shot? You don’t need to go to a fancy gym or drive to a picturesque landscape to simply go for a walk. If you are afraid of having to go to the bathroom, do laps inside your home, or around the perimeter of your house, so that you can quickly get back inside if you need to use the bathroom. When I was first diagnosed and feeling crappy, I would walk around the athletic center (literally around the building) on my college campus or do a really easy cycle on the stationary bike which was in a room directly near a restroom.
In “The Autoimmune Wellness Handbook”, they break it down and explain how it may be hard to workout and you may build barriers (to be frank, excuses), but moving is such an important part of healing from chronic illness. What people do need to understand though is that there can be such a thing as moving too much or moving too little and you will need to find what works for you and your lifestyle. The most important thing for me, which is also stressed in both books I have mentioned, is making exercise a part of your daily or weekly routine. For me, I make it a non-negotiable so that it gets done because I know that even when I do not want to do it I will benefit from it! Both resources also talk about having a workout buddy so that you can keep each other accountable!
If you are a little overwhelmed with where to start or are just looking for something to change up your current workout routine, there are plenty of suitable programs and options for you. Walking is probably the easiest place to start if you do not know where to begin. I walk my dog every single day, even in the frigid cold and the sweltering heat (we adjust our time here!) in addition to my normal workout routine because walking and, more importantly, being outside are very important to healing. Dr. Ruscio describes the importance that the outdoors has on your gut bacteria (which is a topic for another time), but you can kill 2 birds with 1 stone nonetheless! Other ways you can be active without overdoing it are gentle yoga, a leisurely cycle, swimming, and rebounding (which I need to look more into because I’ve heard great things!). If you can handle a little more, then you can look into different workout programs or apps that have a set schedule and workouts.
As you begin to heal, your body will able to handle more and more activity which is only going to aid in you feeling better. Like I said earlier, I was told that I was never going to be able to workout again, and since then, I made it a mission to prove that doctor wrong (which he has no idea I’ve done because I no longer see him…haha!). I am doing things now that I never thought I would be doing again, and in some areas, I am stronger than I was before. The key to being physically active and not letting it actually hurt you is being smart about your decisions. Is a walk going to kill you? Probably not. Is trying to do crazy crossfit-style lifting while flaring smart? I would guess no (though there are many super active body building IBD warriors out there!). You will begin to see that your mood will improve, you will get better sleep, and you will be feeling less stressed if you are choosing the proper activity level for you. Don’t forget that exercise does cause some stress on your body, though it helps alleviate your everyday stress by releasing all the good chemicals, so you just have to be cognizant of how much stress you are putting on your body.
Currently, I go on at least 2 walks everyday while the weather is nice, one during my lunch break and one with my dog after work. I am also following the FOCUS T25 program through beachbody and I am finishing up Gamma phase which will bring me to 4 times completing this program. I also lift some weights about 3 times a week and I try to go to a flow or gentle yoga class once a week. It may seem like a lot when reading this, but my 2 walks only take up about an hour of my day and then my workout and any weight lifting take only another hour tops. The benefits I get from these 2 hours outweighs the amount of “time” they actually take me. And like I said, I make it a non-negotiable so that I know I am doing something that my body needs! 8 years ago when my doctor told me I wouldn’t be active ever again, I never thought I would be able to handle what I am doing now. It’s amazing what our bodies can do!
So, I want to hear from you all. Are you currently doing a workout routine, and if so what are you doing? Are you looking for more information on where to begin or what to do? Comment below or shoot me an email!