Sport and Inflammatory Bowel Disease


Most patients with inflammatory bowel disease can enjoy a wide range of sporting activities. It may actually be a good way to improve energy levels and relieve the depression sometimes associated with chronic ill health because exercise leads to the release of natural endorphins (chemical 'feel good factors') from the brain. There are some conditions which may limit strenuous activity:
  1. Osteoporosis

  2. This is a condition in which the bones become weak and thin and may be damaged or broken during vigorous exercise. Although exercise may be of value in strengthening the bones and preserving their structure, they may be damaged by excessive force. It is, therefore, unwise to undertake certain activities, e.g jogging, heavy gym work, football, rugby or hockey. Activities which are more suitable include swimming (as the muscles and bones are supported by the water), stretch and tone type exercise, golf, cycling and walking.
  3. Recent Surgery

  4. When surgical wounds have healed, (i.e. 2-3 months following the operation) there is usually no restriction to sporting activity. However, you should take advice from the doctor before re-starting contact or strenuous sports. You may resume swimming once the wound has healed and the presence of a stoma need not prevent this activity. Handy hints for swimming with a stoma are listed below:
    • stoma protectors are available to wear over the stoma
    • small activity pouches are available which are undetectable under swimwear
    • special swim and sportswear are available to conceal appliances but are not generally needed as most patterned swimsuits and trunks are suitable
    • adhesive tape may be applied to the stoma appliance for extra security
  5. Active Disease

  6. During a relapse of your condition it is unlikely that you will feel like undertaking sporting activity and, in general, it is better to rest. Fear of incontinence and anxiety that toilet facilities may not be easily available during sporting activities may also discourage some IBD patients. However, once your treatment is effective you should aim to resume exercise as soon as practicable.