Physical Activities for Ostomates

How to Develop an Exercise Routine After an Ostomy

Written by the Vancouver Chapter of the United Ostomy Association of Canada, A Handbook for New Ostomy Patients recommends limiting physical activity to walking regularly in moderation following surgery. “Walking stimulates the return of bowel function and will get you back on the road to regaining the muscle you lost while in hospital.” During the weeks following surgery it is best to completely avoid sports, heavy lifting, or any other activity that will tax your midsection in particular (that includes cleaning the house and using household items such as a vacuum cleaner).

Because the incisions performed in an ostomy weaken the abdominal muscles, the UOAC handbook recommends avoiding abdominal exercises altogether even if and when you return to the gym. All exercise should be done with caution, building slowly in duration and intensity as you move back towards your regular routine or create a brand new one.

And a personal trainer or coach can inspire as well as develop a safe routine, if available to you.

Special Considerations for Athletes

Before beginning (or reintroducing) a sport into your life after ostomy surgery, it’s crucial to seek out the advice of your health-care provider. Along with any special considerations that are relevant to your personal history they will help to guide you through the transition from being an athlete without a stoma to being an athlete with one.

While most experts would agree that contact sports could be extra dangerous for those with an ostomy, if you do decide to engage in playing them you must take proper precautions. A guide published by Hollister on Sports & Fitness for those living with an ostomy points out that it can often take a number of months for a stoma to shrink to its permanent size and reach its maximum strength. The first few months after surgery are a time to avoid sports and activities that could present any dangers or delay your healing time and focus on building you health through proper diet, nutrition, and light exercise such as walking.

When your health-care provider feels you’re ready to be active again one of the first things to consider is the location of your stoma. You want to ensure that you do not accidentally injure your stoma or damage your pouch during activity, which could mean wearing protective gear and/or certain types of clothing to protect it. Firm waistbands, girdles, or other workout wear with extra support around the midsection can be beneficial.

The Do’s and Don’Ts of Exercising With an Ostomy Pouch

In order to enjoy exercising and playing sports with an ostomy pouch you want to feel physically comfortable as well as confident. If you’re constantly worried that your pouch may shift or become damaged, it will impede your performance and dampen your enthusiasm.

Here are some quick tips to help guide you through the do’s and don’ts of exercising with an ostomy pouch.

  • DO empty your pouch before engaging in any sport or activity.
  • DO wear firmly fitted clothing to keep your pouch in place.
  • DO take precautions to ensure your pouch does not become damp.
  • DO look for special swimsuits or trunks designed to support an ostomy pouch.
  • DO eat less fibre the day before you know you’re going to engage in a lot of exercise.
  • DO contact your ostomy nurse or health-care provider with questions.
  • DO set achievable goals.
  • DON’T overdo it because you think you have something to prove.

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