“Despite my hectic schedule, I’ve made time to exercise regularly and it was the best decision for me - I’m much happier with myself as a result.” - Josh Goodman, member of National Council of College Leaders


Regular physical activity is an important factor for a healthy adult lifestyle. Exercise can help you maintain a healthy weight, reduce stress, improve skin, reverse muscle weakness, and strengthen your bones and immune system. It can also increase the feeling of happiness (due to endorphin release - the “feel good” hormone). As many IBD patients manage mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety, exercise is a healthy and important coping mechanism to improve and maintain one’s mental health. Exercise in college is important to incorporate into your routine to maintain a healthy lifestyle and manage the stress of classes. Most colleges have recreation facilities/gyms. Take advantage of this resource if it is easily accessible. Many college recreational facilities are open long hours (early mornings and late nights, some even 24 hours) to accommodate your busy schedule.

Exercise and Flares

During flares or periods of increased symptoms, you may not feel up to exercising, or very fatigued. If this is the case, it is best to let your body rest. During flares, it is suggested to limit exercise and resume once the flare up is controlled and your energy returns. It is important to discuss with your physician what is the best solution for you, both during a flare up and while under control.

No Gym Access? No problem.

If your school does not offer recreational facilities for students, don’t let this stop you from exercising. Many local gyms and fitness studios offer discounted membership rates for students, all you would need is your student ID! If your budget doesn’t permit a gym membership, there are plenty of ways to still get exercise. Many exercises can be done in your own home/apartment/dorm such as body weight strength training (low impact too). If you want to get outside, walking and bicycling is also another great workout that does not require going to a gym.

Not sure what to begin with?

There are many phone apps that provide fitness plans and workouts to meet your needs - both in and out of the gym. A quick search on the app store or internet will provide you with countless options so you can find what best fits what you’re looking for. Find a free one (they’re just as helpful!). Many gyms offer personal training services at no extra cost or minimal cost. Don’t forget your physician and dietician are invaluable sources that can provide you with recommendations based off your personal health. Always talk with them! For IBD patients, low-impact/moderate exercise is encouraged. Some low-impact activities include, but are not limited to, brisk walking, bicycling, and swimming, yoga, elliptical and rowing. Low impact exercises don’t mean they are easy or ineffective so don’t let this discourage you from trying them. Low-impact workouts still get the heart pumping and create the benefits of exercise while minimizing the risk of injury and put less strain on your joints.

Helpful tips on exercise and IBD

  • Discuss with your physician what exercises best fit you and your abilities, especially if you have had a recent surgery. Everyone’s disease and abilities are different and your doctor can recommend the best fit for you personally.
  • If you’re exercising outside, find routes that allow for bathroom breaks when needed
  • Hydrate yourself (lots of water!)
  • Try out different activities and find what you enjoy - then alternate between those to avoid boredom and keep things interesting
  • No matter your weight, exercise and a healthy diet are important ways to avoid potential IBD complications. Your doctor will discuss how exercise can benefit your health as it pertains to you disease and body.
  • Talk with your dietician to make sure you’re eating enough (and well) with your exercise routine
  • Do what feels right for YOU!

Other helpful resources on exercise: