New research finds high-intensity interval training actually offers benefits to adults living with Crohn’s disease

1 February 2019

New research published in BMC Gastroenterology has found that high intensity and moderate intensity exercise programmes are a useful therapy and lifestyle behaviour for adults with Crohn’s disease, contrary to popular medical belief.

The research, funded by Crohn’s & Colitis UK and led by the University of Hertfordshire, is the first ever study to test and demonstrate the feasibility of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) in adults with Crohn’s disease.

Until now, only low intensity to moderate intensity exercise had been studied with adults with Crohn’s disease with no clarification that exercise is safe for sufferers of the condition. Currently practitioners do not know what to recommend patients in terms of exercise they can undertake safely without a flare up, leading to some patients with Crohn’s disease being told that they should not exercise at all.

I have suffered with Crohn’s disease for 24 years and therefore this study was very personal for me to undertake. I have been fortunate to have competed internationally in elite sport and so understanding the effect of exercise on outcome measures in Crohn’s disease patients is of particular interest.

This study is the first high intensity study to start to understand this picture and we hope to continue our research in the future to enable us to get a better understanding of the response to exercise in patients with Crohn’s disease and how it effects their quality of life.

Dr Lindsay Bottoms, Chief Investigator of the study
Research Lead for Sport, Health and Exercise at the University of Hertfordshire

During the study both male and female participants between 16 and 65 years of age with a clinical diagnosis of Crohn’s disease were allocated to one of three groups. One group was a control group who did not receive any supervised exercise or exercise advice as part of the trial, another did moderate-intensity continuous training (MICT) and the final group did HIIT.

The study found that both the cycle-based HIIT and MICT programmes had good attendance figures and positive feedback, with no participants reporting exercise causing a worsening of their symptoms. This is important news for practitioners, as exercise has been showed to improve quality of life and have positive effects on mood, self-esteem, sleep quality and energy.

We are delighted to have funded Lindsay Bottom’s research into exercising with Crohn’s. Exercising is a topic that our supporters often have queries about and this study allows us to provide some answers. We are impressed that Lindsay recruited a good target number and importantly, the participants enjoyed the exercise. Helping patients live well with their condition is of huge importance to us and these promising results lay the groundwork for improving lives today.

Helen Terry
Director of Research at Crohn’s & Colitis UK

The full journal paper can be read via the following link:


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