One of the most important tips for better digestive health and wellness is to begin an exercise routine. Exercise is one of the most important lifestyle practices to adopt when considering treatment options when faced with a diagnosis of IBD.

How to Get Started

No matter what your physical state is, there is always something you can do for exercise. Following a daily plan is essential to maintaining good health. Try walking at first if you currently don’t have an exercise program. Thirty minutes to one hour walking outside can help relieve stress, improve mood and promote energy.

Once you are doing those daily and feel you can proceed onto a more formal form of exercise, be sure to explore all of your options to find the best one for you. Keeping a journal for progress, or downloading a chart (the Hal Higdon training is a great way for a runner to begin). Here are some examples of different forms of exercise to consider: running in place, using a hula hoop, jumping rope, walking with intervals of increased speed, running, elliptical routine, weight lifting, hiking, swimming, biking or stationary biking, dancing, yoga, Qigong, Tai Chi, and Pilates.

Make the Time

Exercise is most effective when it is performed consistently. Therefore, you should choose a few of the options and make sure you are doing something almost daily. For example, if you choose an elliptical machine at the gym and work out for 45–60 minutes but can only make it to the gym 3 days per week, then you should choose another activity such as hiking (with a friend perhaps to become more socially engaged), and make sure to do that at least 5–10 minutes on the days you don’t exercise. This way, even on the days that you are not doing a work out, you are still moving and ensuring improved circulation in the body.

Implementing exercise into your schedule can be difficult if you don’t already do it regularly. The best way to resolve this is to schedule exercise into every day. Pick a realistic time that you can be consistent with and begin immediately. You do not have to wait until you are in shape, lose weight, or get a membership to the gym. You also don’t have to spend a lot of money to implement an exercise routine. The simplest form of exercise is running or jogging in place; however dancing, spinning, and other forms of dance exercise are becoming popular—the important thing is to try to break a sweat every day, with one day off to rest per week.

Seasonal exercise is also a great way to diversify and enjoy the benefits of cross training. Snow shoeing in the winter if you live in a climate that has snow, is a great way to break a sweat and stay in shape; joining a rowing club to learn how to skull or even to row in a group (called “sweep” rowing), are activities you can do in the warmer months.

–Dede Cummings, co-author (with Jessica Black, ND) of Living with Crohn’s & Colitis: A Comprehensive Naturopathic Guide for Complete Digestive Wellness