Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes inflammation in a person’s gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Certain exercises may help reduce a person’s Crohn’s disease symptoms. A person with Crohn’s disease should always consult their doctor before trying any new exercise.

Crohn’s disease occurs when a person’s immune system overreacts to harmless bacteria that live in the gut. When the immune system attacks these bacteria, it causes inflammation. Crohn’s disease affects approximately 1.6 million people in the United States.

When a person experiences symptoms of Crohn’s disease, it is called a flare-up. Flare-ups can occur for several reasons, including stress and taking incorrect doses of medication.

There is evidence to suggest that exercise may be able to help reduce Crohn’s flare-ups. Read on to learn more about exercise and Crohn’s disease, as well as any possible risks.

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A person who has Crohn’s disease can still exercise. However, the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation suggests that a person with Crohn’s disease limit exercise when they have a flare-up. It is important that a person allows their body to rest and recover from a flare-up before resuming normal exercise levels.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest that mild exercise should not worsen the condition of people with mild to moderate Crohn’s disease symptoms.

There is no current guideline for how much or how little exercise a person with Crohn’s should do, according to the CDC. A person should only exercise for as long as they are comfortable. The Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation notes that even a 30-minute walk three times a week can be beneficial to a person with Crohn’s disease.

Symptoms may be milder or more severe in one person with Crohn’s than in another. It is therefore important that a person speaks to their doctor before starting any new exercise regime.

There are various benefits exercise may have for a person with Crohn’s disease, including:

Easing GI symptoms

A person who has Crohn’s disease may experience symptoms such as:

A review from 2017 found that mild to moderate exercise could reduce the severity of IBD and increase the quality of life of people with the condition.

People with Crohn’s disease that affects their colon may also have a higher chance of developing colon cancer. Researchers suggest that exercise may reduce a person’s chance of developing colon cancer by 20–⁠25%.

Learn more about Crohn’s symptoms here.

Reducing stress

One of the known causes of Crohn’s disease flare-ups is stress. The Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation notes that physical activity can help reduce stress.

Additionally, a study from 2014 found that people with inactive or mild Crohn’s disease symptoms had significant improvement in their stress levels after moderate exercise.

Increasing bone mass

Bone density loss can be one of the symptoms of Crohn’s disease. According to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation, between 30⁠–60% of people with Crohn’s disease will experience bone density loss. A person who has bone density loss may be more likely to have fractures or breaks in their bones.

A study from 2015 found that exercise may improve skeletal health. Researchers also note that exercise can improve bone mineral density in people who have IBD.

Learn 11 ways to increase bone density here.

Reducing depression

The Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation notes that people who have Crohn’s disease are more likely to be depressed than those who do not. Depression may be higher in people with Crohn’s disease due to decreased quality of life or low self-esteem.

Exercise may be one healthy way for a person with Crohn’s disease to help improve their mental health. Taking part in exercise can release endorphins into a person’s body. Endorphins are chemicals that can boost feelings of happiness and reduce pain.

Explore more ways to improve mental health at our Mental Health Hub here.

Boosting the immune system

To treat Crohn’s disease symptoms, some people may need to take immunosuppressants. Immunosuppressants help reduce the effects of a person’s overreacting immune system. However, immunosuppressants work by suppressing a person’s immune responses, meaning their immune system may become weaker.

Research from 2017 notes that exercise may improve immune function in people without Crohn’s disease. However, there is a lack of information on how exercise affects the immune function of people with Crohn’s disease.

Learn more ways to stay healthy with a weak immune system here.

Reducing inflammation

A study from 2014 found that moderate exercise can be beneficial for a person with Crohn’s disease due to its anti-inflammatory properties.

Researchers suggest these anti-inflammatory properties may be due in part to the release of myokines by the skeletal muscles. Myokines are proteins that the body releases during exercise that have anti-inflammatory properties.

Learn about foods that can help reduce colon inflammation here.

Preventing flare-ups

Research from 2015 looked into the effects of exercise in people who were in remission from Crohn’s disease. Crohn’s disease is not curable, but people may not always experience symptoms. A person who does not experience symptoms is in remission.

Researchers found that people with Crohn’s disease in remission, who also partook in high levels of exercise, were significantly less likely to have a flare-up after 6 months.

However, researchers noted that further studies would be necessary in order to confirm this.

Learn other ways to manage a Crohn’s flare-up here.

A person who has Crohn’s disease should only do exercises that are comfortable for them. It is important that a person does not push their body too far when exercising. The Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation recommends that a person with Crohn’s disease should try low impact exercises.

There are certain exercises that may be beneficial for a person who has Crohn’s disease, including:


Yoga is a form of exercise that is low impact and builds strength. Additionally, yoga can provide relaxation.

A review from the Journal of Psychosomatic Research found that yoga-based programs significantly improved depression, anxiety, stress, and quality of life in people with IBD.

Learn more about the research-backed benefits of yoga here.

Moderate aerobic exercises

Aerobic exercises are exercises that increase a person’s heart rate. Aerobic exercises include walking, swimming, and cycling.

A study from 2015 noted that increased levels of exercise could reduce Crohn’s disease flare-ups by 32% after 6 months.

Combined resistance and impact training

Resistance training involves building strength by exerting force to push, pull, or work against a form of resistance. Resistance training involves weight lifting, sit-ups, and squats.

Impact exercises include various types of jumping, such as skipping rope and squat jumps. Research from 2020 looked into the effects of combined resistance and impact training on people with Crohn’s disease. Researchers found that this exercise improved bone mineral density and muscle function in people with Crohn’s disease.

However, a person with Crohn’s disease should speak with their doctor before doing any high-impact exercises.

A person with Crohn’s disease needs to be aware of how their body reacts to any new exercise. Strenuous activity can lead to inflammation and doctors generally do not recommend it for a person with IBD. Intense levels of activity may also impair a person’s immune system.

Frequent diarrhea in Crohn’s disease can cause a person to become dehydrated more easily. It is therefore important that a person stays properly hydrated during exercise.

A person who has Crohn’s disease should always consult their doctor before beginning any new exercise regimes.

It is possible for a person to exercise if they have Crohn’s disease. Exercise has a variety of health benefits for a person who has Crohn’s disease.

Forms of exercise that could be especially beneficial to a person with Crohn’s disease include yoga, moderate aerobic exercises, and combined resistance and impact training. Intense activity may have more risks than benefits for a person with IBD.

A person with Crohn’s disease should speak with their doctor before starting any new exercises. They should keep to low impact exercises and ensure they do not become too dehydrated.