The effects of physical exercise on patients with Crohn's disease

Am J Gastroenterol. 1999 Mar;94(3):697-703. doi: 10.1111/j.1572-0241.1999.00939.x.


Objective: Despite the suggested benefits of exercise training in the prevention and management of chronic diseases, few data exist regarding the safety of exercise in Crohn's disease and whether or not exercise may have beneficial effects on patients' health. We performed a pilot study to evaluate the effects of regular light-intensity exercise on sedentary patients with Crohn's disease.

Methods: Sedentary patients with inactive or mildly active Crohn's disease were eligible for the study. A thrice-weekly, 12-wk walking program was supervised, although if subjects could not attend the group walking sessions they were allowed to walk on their own. Logbooks of performance were maintained, and individual exercise heart rate goals were established. Measures performed at baseline and at study completion included the Inflammatory Bowel Disease Stress Index, the Inflammatory Bowel Disease Quality of Life Score, the Harvey and Bradshaw Simple Index, the Canadian Aerobic Fitness Test, VO2 Max, and body mass index (BMI).

Results: Twelve subjects completed the 12-wk exercise program. Subjects walked an average of 2.9 sessions/wk, at an average of 32.6 min/session, and for an average distance of 3.5 km/session. Statistically significant improvements at study end were seen by all measures, with a trend toward reduction in BMI. No patient's disease flared during the study.

Conclusions: Sedentary patients with Crohn's disease can tolerate low-intensity exercise of moderate duration without an exacerbation of symptoms. Twelve weeks of walking was adequate to elicit psychological and physical improvements and did not adversely affect disease activity.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Crohn Disease / physiopathology
  • Crohn Disease / psychology
  • Crohn Disease / therapy*
  • Exercise Therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Physical Fitness
  • Pilot Projects
  • Quality of Life
  • Walking