Last week, I covered the implications of celiac disease and nutrition. Hopefully you found my charts of nutrient-rich foods handy and you’re well on your way to improving your health through diet changes. Now let’s talk about celiac disease and fitness.
Exercise is definitely not my favorite thing to do – in fact, when I get busy or stressed, it’s one of the first things I skip. When I’m already not feeling well due to stomach troubles or the occasional glutening, it’s really hard to get off the couch and moving. However, there is a load of evidence that says exercise is important for health, and particularly for those of us dealing with celiac disease and gluten intolerance. Here are five reasons why exercise is super important for people with celiac disease!
Since you’re reading this, I’m going to guess you’ve probably struggled with digestive issues. You may well still be trying to find the right balance even after giving up gluten. Exercise can improve digestion by increasing blood flow to the digestive system. Gentle twisting yoga can help improve blood flow to the bowels as well as strengthen the digestive muscles, among other benefits. In short, getting yourself moving can help get things moving!
If you’ve been dealing with malabsorption issues, you could be at risk of osteoporosis from low calcium. First, address your dietary needs through these handy food charts. Then, consider adding some exercise to your daily routine. Weight bearing activities like walking, running and dancing can all aid in building and maintaining bone density.
Celiac disease means that gluten causes inflammation in the gut. Eliminating gluten eliminates that stress on the system, but sometimes it takes a while for the body to recover. Other things, like stress and being overweight, can also contribute to inflammation. Research has shown that just 30 minutes of moderate exercise five times a week can reduce inflammation in the body. This is beneficial for a number of reasons, including heart health, joint health, sleep, and even reducing cancer risk. Inflammation has also been linked to depression, so there’s plenty of reasons you’ll want to do anything you can to improve it.
Research has shown that exercise can improve your short-term mood. I’ve definitely found this to be true, and when I find myself in a funk, I try to take a long walk to clear my mind. Walking briskly across a nearby park does wonders for me!
I’m sure many of you can relate to the struggles with a celiac diagnosis and realizing that your diet is going to be a pain in the butt for the rest of your life. It’s easy to get caught up feeling bad about it, whether that’s sadness, anger or even anxiety about how you’ll deal with social situations. There’s evidence that exercise can improve your long-term mental health and is often recommended as part of a treatment plan for depression. Regular exercise is a great way to improve your health so that those annoying thoughts about celiac disease aren’t as loud.
It probably comes as no surprise, but exercise can also help you sleep better. Research found that people who exercised 150 minutes per week (or 30 minutes, five times a week) slept better and were more alert during than day than those who exercised less.
Personally, I struggle with insomnia and really poor sleep quality, and I find that when I’m in a good exercise routine, I’m able to fall asleep more quickly and I sleep more soundly. When I fall off the wagon with exercise, I find myself staying up too late, having restless, poor sleep, and reaching for extra caffeine the next day. That only makes things worse and I end up in a poor sleep-exhaustion cycle that’s really hard to get out of! If that sounds like you, I usually try to cut the caffeine back first (I only have one cup of coffee per day, first thing in the morning, and try not to have any more caffeine after noon.) Then I add in the exercise, starting slowly with a 15-minute walk every day and building up my endurance from there. Nowadays, I’m lifting weights about four times a week and making sure to hit my 10,000 step *Fitbit goal every day.
Hopefully these five benefits will have you consider adding that 150 minutes of moderate exercise into your weekly routine, along with a little yoga or gentle stretching. I’ve been exercising really consistently for about a month now, and I’m feeling much better in many ways.
What do you like to do for exercise? Do you find it hard to find 2 ½ hours to exercise each week? Tell me in the comments!
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