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Experiences of the effects of physical activity in persons with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): a qualitative content analysis

Journal article
Authors Elisabet Johannesson
Eva Jakobsson Ung
Riadh Sadik
Gisela Ringström
Published in Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology
Volume 53
Issue 10-11
Pages 1194-1200
ISSN 0036-5521
Publication year 2018
Published at University of Gothenburg Centre for person-centred care (GPCC)
Institute of Medicine
Institute of Health and Care Sciences
Pages 1194-1200
Language en
Keywords Exercise, physical activity, irritable bowel syndrome, gastrointestinal diseases, qualitative research, health-care, patient education, of-life, management, symptoms, exercise, term, intervention, association, people, Gastroenterology & Hepatology
Subject categories Clinical Medicine


Objective: Increased physical activity has been tested among patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) in a randomized trial which demonstrated improvement in gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms. The patients' experiences of the effects of physical activity on IBS symptoms are unknown. This knowledge is necessary to enable suitable support from health care professionals. The aim of this study was therefore to explore patients' experiences of the effects of physical activity. Materials and methods: Deep interviews were conducted with 15 patients (10 women and 5 men) aged 31-78 years. Their IBS had lasted for 10-57 years. The transcribed interviews were analyzed through a qualitative content analysis. Results: The analysis of the material revealed three themes; GI symptoms, extra-intestinal symptoms, and quality of life (QOL). In relation to GI symptoms, the patients discussed how physical activity affected these symptoms and how they used physical activity to normalize and control their GI symptoms. Extra-intestinal symptoms were also affected by physical activity, and the patients described how they experienced a general bodily wellbeing as well as improved mood and energy in relation to physical activity. In terms of QOL, the patients discussed their perspectives on physical activity as giving them achievements, being pleasurable, and being strengthening of the self. Conclusions: Our results emphasize the importance of taking into account the patient's experiences of the effects of physical activity when coaching patients with IBS to be physically active. Using a person-centred approach incorporating, the patient's own experiences and resources is the key to successfully promoting physical activity in the clinic.

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