Day 4 - Living

Get your exercise

"I know from experience that after I exercise I will definitely feel better."

Mindy Helm, 22 years old, Kent, Washington , IBS sufferer for 3 years.

"I was always a very active person who exercised every day until I first developed IBS three years ago. As I became sicker and sicker, my energy level dropped to a very low point and I eventually had to quit exercising altogether because I just didn't have the strength. At this point (it had been a whole year) I finally saw a doctor and was diagnosed with both IBS and lactose intolerance. I felt like I'd been hit by a truck when I heard the news. Although I then tried to stay away from dairy (my favorite foods), this didn't really help me that much. Eating more soluble fiber did help, but I still didn't feel great.

I decided to slowly start working out again, and I eventually increased my workouts to the most strenuous, frequent level possible. Although it didn't happen overnight, my symptoms did gradually decrease and one day I realized that I once again felt good.

The whole experience of IBS has been very frustrating to me. Ironically, exercise has helped me as much with this frustration as with the IBS itself, particularly my dismay over not being able to eat whatever I want, whenever I want. Exercise also helps me manage my daily stress levels, and for me stress is a huge trigger. Today, even when my IBS is acting up and I'm not feeling so great, I'll go for a run in spite of it all. Invariably, I'll feel so much better when my workout's through. It's still hard for me to remain motivated on the days I'm not doing well, but now I know from experience that after I exercise, in any way at all, I will definitely feel better. For me, exercise is always worth my time."

If you already have a regular workout routine you're surely well aware of the benefits to your entire life and health, and IBS just adds another motivating factor for sticking with your physical activities. However, if you're faced with starting a new exercise program, this is a little more difficult than merely staying with one that's well-established and that you enjoy. It helps a lot to mentally take just one step at a time here, and make it your goal to be physically active today. Consider yourself a person in exercise recovery, and don't worry about tomorrow until you get there. Trying to begin a routine with the outlook that this is a lifelong venture is likely to seem overwhelming, if not completely insurmountable. This mindset will just set you up for failure and depression. Instead, take the small step of exercising today, tonight, or first thing tomorrow morning, and make sure to mentally congratulate yourself when you finish. Start each day fresh, so yesterday's missed workout is irrelevant today.

If it's been a while since you were physically active, you may have to fight the urge you're likely to feel to just stay home today and start your workouts tomorrow...but tomorrow never comes. You may not feel like learning a new sport, taking a class, changing for the gym, or bothering with lessons. If this is the case, stop worrying about it, and simply go outside and walk. Or get inside on a treadmill and walk. Or go to your local mall and walk (don't shop, just walk). Do this today, tomorrow, and every day after that, and your entire body and state of health, as well as your IBS symptoms, are bound to be the better for it.

If you do have the energy and feel excited about taking a bigger step and joining in a true sport, but are at a loss as to where to begin, it may help to think back to your favorite activity in grade school, high school, or college. Did you love basketball? tennis? swimming? dancing? Whatever it was, remember how much you enjoyed it at the time, and try to find a way to get the sport back into your life. Most of us had a ball playing games and running, skipping, jumping our way through childhood, but lost this element of sheer physical joy from our daily lives as we got older. This is what exercise can bring back into your adult life, not just good physical and mental health. You do have to make an effort, but the rewards truly are worthwhile.

It's helpful to remember that exercise is not a quick fix that will immediately halt all IBS symptoms, but rather something you need to devote time to, preferably every single day, for the rest of your life. Just as IBS is an ongoing syndrome so physical activity, like diet, is an ongoing solution. The results from exercise will only equal your dedication, so make it a priority. Your health deserves it.


Your local gym – just check the yellow pages under "health clubs"
Local league sports
Company or corporate teams
School sports for students
Exercise videotapes
Home exercise equipment
A comfy pair of sneakers and the world outside your door

Day 4 Summary ~

Exercise of any kind can be crucial to helping you successfully deal with IBS both physically and mentally, so find an enjoyable way to keep active and stick with it.

Click here to continue reading First Year: IBS.

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