Physical Activity in Patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease: A Cross-Sectional Study

Inflamm Intest Dis. 2021 May;6(2):61-69. doi: 10.1159/000511212. Epub 2021 Feb 24.

Georgina Fagan 1, Hamish Osborne 1, Michael Schultz 1 2


Author information

  • 1Department of Medicine, Dunedin School of Medicine, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand.
  • 2Gastroenterology Department, Southern District Health Board, Dunedin, New Zealand.


Introduction and objective: Despite the known benefits of physical activity in the management of chronic diseases, the use of exercise as a treatment is relatively underemployed, with many patients reporting their disease to be a barrier. This study aimed to assess physical activity levels, attitudes, and barriers towards exercise in a cohort of patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). In addition, this study aimed to assess possible relationships between physical well-being, psychological well-being, and sociodemographic factors.

Methods: 306 patients >18 years with diagnosed IBD in Dunedin, New Zealand, were approached to participate in this study. Participants who consented completed questionnaires regarding exercise preferences and attitudes, physical activity levels, and psychological well-being.

Results: Seventy-seven patients participated in the study (77/308 = 25%). Sixty-six percent of participants met physical activity guidelines and the median metabolic equivalent minutes/week of 1,027.5 (505.5-2,339.5). Walking was the most preferred activity (30%) followed by water-based exercise (20%). Two-thirds of participants reported their disease limited the amount of physical activity undertaken. Common barriers to participating in physical activity included fatigue (34%) and abdominal pain (20%). Patients with active disease reported higher levels of barriers than those in remission (80 vs. 54%, p = 0.018). Higher physical activity levels were correlated with lower levels of fatigue (p = 0.022-0.046).

Conclusions: While patients with IBD in Dunedin, New Zealand, are physically active, reducing real and perceived barriers is crucial to further increase physical activity in patients with IBD who are in remission or with active disease.


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