Patient experiences with the role of physical activity in inflammatory bowel disease: results from a survey and interviews

Carlijn R. Lamers*, Nicole M. de Roos, Lola J.M. Koppelman, Maria T.E. Hopman, Ben J.M. Witteman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: Physical activity may affect disease activity in patients with inflammatory bowel disease. We used a survey to investigate this association and performed interviews to get a better understanding of patient experiences, and therefore the nature of this association. Methods: Patients with Crohn’s disease (CD, n = 176) and ulcerative colitis (UC, n = 162) completed the short Crohn’s Disease Activity (sCDAI) or Patient Simple Clinical Colitis Activity Index (P-SCCAI) and the Short Questionnaire to Assess Health-enhancing physical activity (SQUASH). Associations were investigated by multiple linear regression. Semi-structured interviews (7 CD, 7 UC) were conducted to assess patient experiences with the role of physical activity in their disease. Results: The majority of survey participants were in remission (70%) and adhered to the Dutch physical activity guidelines (61%). In Crohn’s disease, the total physical activity score was inversely associated with disease activity, even after adjustment for confounders (β = − 0.375; p = 0.013). No association between physical activity and disease activity was found in ulcerative colitis. Of the interviewees, 86% experienced beneficial effects of physical activity, such as improved general fitness, quality of life and self-image. However, during periods of active disease they struggled to find the motivation and perseverance to be physically active due to physical barriers. Conclusions: Crohn’s disease participants with a higher physical activity level had a lower disease activity. This inverse association was not found in ulcerative colitis. Interviews revealed that IBD patients generally experience beneficial effects from physical activity, although the barriers caused by active disease may put them off to be physically active.

Original languageEnglish
Article number172
JournalBMC Gastroenterology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 14 Apr 2021


  • Crohn’s disease
  • Interviews
  • Physical activity
  • Ulcerative colitis

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