Chronic illness and fitness: staying fit with crohn’s disease

I don’t know when this photo was taken but it looks Early to me… stock photo

Crohn’s disease is not a fun condition to have. One day you can be absolutely fine, and the next you’re bedbound and wondering what the heck you ate or did to make your body react like it is. It’s unpredictable, which makes staying healthy and keeping fit both difficult and incredibly necessary to keep the illness in check as much as possible, the reasoning being that if you are healthy and fit, the chronic condition might not give as much grief as it could do.

I was… I wouldn’t say lucky, but my crohn’s came on during a time of my life when I was in pretty good shape. I was working out, at a healthy weight (for me – screw the BMI measurement) and I think that was partly why I didn’t realise something was wrong until I was really, really ill. My natural body condition carried me through it until I had to nope out and find out why I was so sick.

Ever since then I’ve tried to stay as healthy and fit as I can, and I can honestly say that it’s been the most beneficial thing I could have done for myself. I try to work out every week at the gym, unless my body says ‘no’, because I know that I can go right back to square one in a heartbeat.

Right now, I’m on some steroids for a flare up, which is very much stress induced and had probably been going on for way too long before I realised that yeah, I was actually sick and needed treatment and my usual tricks to help a flare (mine are usually mild) weren’t working. Again I’m attributing that to my fitness and sheer stubbornness – I am not going to let a flare up ruin my day.

I’m not currently going to the gym, mostly because these steroids I’ve been prescribed have knocked me flat and I’m exhausted, but also because in the past if I’ve worked out during a flare, it’s made it worse.

However I know that as soon as I’ve finished the treatment course, I have the base level of fitness and can get back on track without too much trouble.

It sounds super cliché to say that keeping yourself fit and healthy is good for you. Of course it is, but it applies double to those of us who have to fight our own bodies on a daily basis. I never know until I wake up how my day is going to go, and I’m fairly certain that if I hadn’t kept my fitness levels up, I would have had more ‘nope’ days than I have done over the past ten years of my life.

I’m aware that not everyone with crohn’s or any kind of chronic illness is able to work out. I consider myself lucky that I can, and I’m not letting crohn’s stop me from my fitness goals. I’ve just had to modify and adjust depending on how my health is.

I will say to anyone suffering from any chronic condition, do what you are able to help your health and fitness. Even if it’s just a very short daily stroll to the end of your garden, or some gentle seated exercises (I didn’t realise these were a thing, I think they’re marvellous that they exist), give it a try. Obviously consult your specialist or doctor before you do – I’m no doctor, just a fitness nut who refuses to let the fact I have a chronic illness that I didn’t ask for limit me in what I can do.

Your experience will vary, fellow chronic illness folks. I can’t speak for the severity of your condition, and I don’t know what you are or aren’t capable of. And don’t ever feel that you have to work out or whatever – I’m not going to preach. I’m merely passing along what worked for me.

Health is relative. Fitness is relative. Do what you can, within your limits. And have fun while you do. Coping with a chronic illness sucks shit, I won’t lie, so being as healthy as you personally are able, will help you in your battle.

We can do this.


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