Florida-based personal trainer Joel Nixon has gained his confidence back after being fitted with an ileostomy bag to deal with his Crohn's Disease. The 30-year-old, originally from New Jersey, says he was always an active kid until he started having health issues during high school.
In 2007 Joel was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, a lifelong condition where parts of the digestive system become inflamed. Although the disease was affecting Joel’s day to day life, he didn’t exactly understand what he was dealing with. He told YouTube channel Truly, who interviewed Joel as part of a series on health transformations: “I never knew anyone that had Crohn's, I didn’t understand it and tried to hide my illness as I didn’t want anyone to look at me differently.”
However, one of the symptoms of his disease was the inability to gain weight, and having a twin brother meant that Joel was often being compared. “They would look at him looking healthy at a normal weight, and then they’d see me looking very skinny and frail.”
Watch Joel's inspiring story right here:
For years Joel suffered in silence, until a massive flare-up caused him a break down. He explained: “I’d be in the car by myself and I’d be crying yelling to the top of my lungs; ‘what’s going on with me?’”
Finally finding the courage to seek help in 2016, doctors told Joel his health had declined so much that the only solution would be an ileostomy bag. “At the time I didn’t like it at all, I was upset to get it but I felt so sick, I was willing to try anything." After the surgery, Joel’s health changed dramatically and when getting back into fitness, he soon started gaining his confidence back as his body became stronger.
“Fitness plays a major part in my life, exercising helps my anxiety and depression, it makes me feel alive and like anyone else without a stoma.” Now a personal trainer, Joel wants to support other people with similar health issues and has started using his social media platforms to create a specialised fitness programme and awareness for Crohn’s disease.
He added: “I feel like if I spread more awareness and people would know about it more, they would stop bullying and instead start a conversation, I feel like this is what I’m supposed to be doing."
Exercise is a great habit to develop in order to keep anxiety and depression at bay. A report from Harvard University found "engaging in exercise diverts you from the very thing you are anxious about... Moving your body decreases muscle tension, lowering the body’s contribution to feeling anxious."
In addition, increasing your heart rate actually changes your brain chemistry, encouraging the release of hormones and anti-anxiety neurochemicals such as serotonin and endocannabinoids, which is the chemical responsible for the famous "runner's high".
Joel began doing calisthenics, such as pull-ups and dips, to train his body at home. Strength training in particular can help boost mood according to Harvard, as researchers found study participants got a mood boost from resistance training, regardless of their health status.
You could be strength training for the very first time, or this could be your first-ever session: the results will still be the same. You could try calisthenics, or use the best adjustable dumbbells or best resistance bands to get started.
Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and News Editor at Fit&Well, covering all things exercise and nutrition on the Fit&Well website. Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen runner, gym-goer, and infrequent yogi. His top fitness tip? Stretch.
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