The benefits of exercise for a coeliac.

Take care of your body, It is the only place you have to live.

Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live. -Jim Rohn

I really should start to exercise again. Before my daughter was born, I exercised most days of the week. I have always struggled with my weight except for a period of a few years before my diagnosis when I could eat a banquet and still lose weight rapidly. Then it all piled back on (and on, and on…) after I was established on a gluten free diet.
But I didn’t only exercise to lose weight. Exercise made me feel healthier, stronger and much more energetic than I do now, although the fact that I have been sleep deprived and run off my feet for the past 2 years also plays a big part in making me feel like my daughter’s rag doll.
It is common knowledge that exercise is beneficial to control weight, to combat health problems like cardiovascular disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes and to improve strength and flexibility.

But have you ever considered how exercise is specifically beneficial for people who suffer from coeliac disease? It is not something we usually think about.

I have compiled a list of reasons why we should get up from in front of our computer screens and get moving.
1. To control weight.
Gluten free products tend to be high in fat and calories. Many of us seem to get over enthusiastic about cooking gluten free sweets, or get excited when we find a new gluten-free product. But do we stop to think about the effect these products have on our health?
2. To strengthen bones.
Due to the damage in the intestinal villi in undiagnosed coeliac disease, there is decreased absorbtion of calcium. We can eat all the calcium in the world, but if there is poor absorbtion, the calcium we ingest is not doing its job. The result is often decreased bone density, depending on the age of diagnosis and how long you were ill before starting a gluten free diet. This decreased bone mineral density is known as osteoporosis and can lead to an increased risk of fractures. Weight-bearing exercises like walking, jogging and jumping are particularly effective to control or improve bone density. However, if you have a high risk of fractures due to osteoporosis, it is best to go for a gentle walk and leave out the jogging and jumping exercises. Unfortunately exercise that does not involve body weight, like swimming, will not improve bone mass, although it does provide other benefits mentioned in this list.
3. To improve mood.
We all know how down we can get at times, no matter how positive your outlook of life is. I was particularly prone to experiencing low moods when I was first diagnosed due to the overwhelming lifestyle change we have to go through. With time it got much easier for me, but some take a little longer to adjust, especially if they have to deal with other associated conditions.
4. Because of the ”halo” effect.
It has been found that when people exercise they make healthier food choices. A healthy diet for a coeliac is not about gluten- free products and restaurants that cater to gluten free diets only. Gluten-free does not automatically mean healthy. We sometimes tend to forget that there is a huge range of naturally gluten free healthy foods we can choose from. Gluten free can be very healthy, if we make the right choices.
5. To strengthen muscles.
When you are feeling unwell, probably the last thing on your mind is exercise and physical activity. However, once a gluten free diet is established, and you are feeling better, strengthening exercises are beneficial to regain power, and prevent falls and fractures.
Most of us can't do this.... but we can all do some form of physical activity.

Most of us can’t do this…. but we can all do some form of physical activity.

It is important to take it easy and increase your exercise gradually. If you have never exercised, a short walk that is progressed gently by increasing speed and the duration of exercise would be a great place to start. It is important to consult your doctor before starting any new exercise program, especially if you suffer from cardiac or respiratory problems, diabetes or suffer from high blood pressure.
Can you think of any other benefits of exercise for a person with coeliac disease?

6 thoughts on “The benefits of exercise for a coeliac.

  1. Interesting topic Candie 🙂 I, contrary to you, lost over 20 kilos when I went on the GF diet. Funnily enough after I started my diet (when my body got used to it) I also got a sweet tooth, something which I never had before. Prior to starting the diet and before I started feeling sick I ate with a passion. I used to love my food! Sadly that all changed. Since I was diagnosed with a Vit B12 and Folate (B9) deficiency and started injections and medication I gained 7 kilos. Not because of the medication but because my appetite came back. I am happy that I got my appetite back but I am not happy with the 7 kilos extra I have to carry 🙂 When I started feeling better with the medication which eventually I stopped as I managed to get my blood levels good, I started training like crazy as I did not want to put on anymore weight. Unfortunately, what happened was that I quickly depleted what I had stored with the training and had to start medication again as I started feeling very tired again and I had to stop training as I did not have the energy to do it. So I think best thing is to take it easy and when we are feeling better we exercise moderately. By the way I never lost the 7 kilos even through vigorous training. So now when I start getting back my energy I will be more cautious to my training regime 🙂


    • That is so unfortunate Cecilia. It is true that when we have associated medical problems, we have to take it easy and build up our exercise levels slowly, always after being given the go ahead from our doctor. A short brisk walk would be great to start with, and this can be progressed as one gets fitter and stronger. It always depends on a person’s level of fitness too. Different fitness levels require different levels of exercise intensity.


      • The thing is Candie I hadn’t felt so good in so many years and I was so happy about it, i would have gone to the moon and back 🙂 oh well! All good things come to an end, I guess. Looking forward to my next pout of energy 🙂


  2. Loved this article! One other reason is that even once you have coeliac under control, there is definitely a chance that you’ll get glutened and when you do, I’d argue that you feel better if you have been exercising and are in better shape. There’s not much scientific evidence behind my belief, but at least for me, I know having strong/toned muscles helps when my digestive track is out of whack.


  3. Reblogged this on Candie's Adventures in Gluten-Free Land and commented:

    I have just discovered that it is currently MOVE Week 2014 in Europe. It is taking place from the 29 September to 5 October. The objective of MOVE Week is to promote the benefits of being active and participating regularly in sport and physical activity throughout Europe.

    So although I am on a blogging break, I thought it was the right time to share an older article of mine that I have updated.


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