Physical Activity with an Ostomy

April 07,2023 |
People taking a rest while hiking.

An ostomy is a surgical procedure that involves creating an opening (stoma) on the abdomen to allow waste to exit the body. They’re considered a life-saving procedure that needs to be performed when the digestive or urinary system is no longer able to function properly. Still, having an ostomy can come with physical and emotional challenges that may impact your life. However, connecting with like-minded individuals and engaging in activities you love can help you get the most out of life as an ostomate. Although some people may assume that getting an ostomy means they need to change the way they move their body, that’s far from the truth. Engaging in regular exercise is essential for maintaining good physical and mental health, regardless of whether you have an ostomy or not. Here, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about physical activity with an ostomy.


The Benefits of Exercising with an Ostomy

Exercise is a powerful tool for your physical and mental health. It can help you gain clarity over certain situations while strengthening your cardiovascular health and reducing the risk of chronic conditions. Exercising with an ostomy has several benefits, including the following:

  • Improved cardiovascular health
  • Increased muscle strength and endurance
  • Improved digestion
  • Boosted immune system
  • Improved mood and mental health
  • Reduced stress and anxiety
  • Better long-term outlook on life
  • Increased self-confidence


How to Start Exercising with an Ostomy

Just because there are several benefits associated with exercising with an ostomy does not mean that you should start trying new things left and right. Always consult with your healthcare professional before beginning any new exercise program to ensure that your intensity, frequency, and sport of choice is safe for your type of ostomy. Although there are very few limitations, your doctor may give you recommendations to make the most out of your efforts and reduce the risk of complications. If you’ve been cleared by your doctor, consider some of the following tips on how to start exercising with an ostomy.


Spend Some Time Recovering

Ostomy surgery is a major surgery. After the procedure, give your body time to heal. If you’re typically an active person, talk to your doctor about when you can get up and move around, what to do to help with recovery, and what to avoid. Oftentimes, your doctor will tell you to get up and try to walk about 15 to 20 minutes at least two to three times a day to help with circulation and healing. Don’t rush this process as exercising too soon can lead to further issues or complications. Give your body time to heal and recover.


Start Slowly

Once you’ve been cleared, go slow. Don’t immediately jump into the weight room and start powerlifting, as this is only going to increase the likelihood of injury or overexertion. Start with walking and then try to incorporate simple exercises like arm raises, pelvic tilts, leg lifts, knee rolls, and other body weight exercises. These can help improve your mobility and strength without going overboard. Over time, gradually increase intensity and duration of each exercise.


Choose the Right Exercises

It’s also important to choose the right exercises for your situations. For example, high-contact sports are usually not recommended for ostomates, as they can lead to injuries to the stoma. The same mentality can be applied to heavy weightlifting, as the pressure from pushing or pulling can impact stoma health. Low-impact activities such as walking, cycling, swimming, and yoga are a good place to start. You can begin to incorporate other exercises as you start to feel stronger.


Wear Appropriate Clothing

Choose clothing that is comfortable and allows for free movement, so you don’t put too much pressure on your ostomy. Consider wearing a support belt or specialized ostomy garments to help keep your ostomy pouch secure during exercise.

Remember, starting a new exercise program can be challenging, especially if you have an ostomy. Be patient with yourself, stay motivated, and seek support from family, friends, or a healthcare professional if you need it. If, at any point, you experience pain or discomfort, stop exercising and talk to your doctor.


What to Know About Engaging in Physical Activity with an Ostomy

There are several myths about living with an ostomy, many of which are far from true. However, there are some things that ostomates should be aware of when it comes to physical activity. That’s not to say that you need to completely avoid these activities, but they may require a different approach.


Water-Based Activities

First, you can absolutely swim with an ostomy. In fact, swimming is a great low impact exercise that carries numerous benefits. However, you may want to talk to your doctor about a pouching system that will give you confidence in the water. Some ostomates may also be self-conscious of swimming with a pouching system, but there is swimwear and additional ostomy accessories available to help conceal your pouch if you’d like.



Lifting heavy weights can put a lot of strain on your healing tissues, so you may need to wait to resume these activities. However, you should be able to eventually resume weightlifting, as long as you go slow and listen to your body. Your doctor may also recommend using a binder or hernia prevention belt as a way to further support your ostomy and abdomen during lifting. Never start weightlifting without your doctor’s approval.



The same mentality applies to running. As long as your body has healed, you should be able to start slowly easing back into your running routine. However, always pay attention to your body and don’t try to match your pre-surgery level of stamina. It takes time, so be patient. To help you feel more secure, you may want to consider an ostomy belt for added support.


Tips to Get the Most Out of Exercising with an Ostomy

Exercising with an ostomy doesn’t have to be much different than exercising without one. With a few strategic tips, you can make the most out of your physical activity.


Empty Your Bag Before the Workout

Emptying your ostomy pouch before you begin a workout can give you more confidence about reducing the risk of leaks. However, over time, you’ll start to understand your body’s schedule and will learn how to change your pouch in any environment or situation.


Stay Hydrated

Hydration is another important thing to consider. Even if it increases your output, your body needs water during physical activity. This will help you get the most out of your performance and will keep your body functioning at its best.


Get Familiar with the Facility

Whether you’re going to a gym or visiting a studio, one of the best things you can do from day one is to get familiar with the facility. Know where the bathrooms are and how to get to the locker rooms so you can address any ostomy-related needs should they arise.


Consider Adjusting Your Mealtimes

You may also want to avoid eating right before you go to the gym. While output is totally normal and should be expected, some ostomates feel more comfortable working out before they eat. You should also try your best to avoid triggering foods before any exercise.


Exercises to Avoid with an Ostomy

An ostomy shouldn’t interfere with your ability to exercise and stay active. However, certain activities may put excess strain on your stoma, which could lead to complications.

One exercise that many ostomates struggle with is sit-ups or crunches. The main cause of the discomfort is going through the range of motion with an ostomy bag. Crunches or sit-ups could also increase your risk of hernia development, so try to stick to other core exercises instead. Some great options are knee rolls, pelvic tilts, and some basic planks.

Also, if you play a high-contact sport, you may want to reassess your position. Although you can still absolutely be a part of the team, high-contact sports put you at a higher risk of stoma damage or issues with your pouching system. Talk to your doctor or ostomy nurse about protective covering options and consider talking to your teammates so they know to be sensitive of your abdomen.

To get the most out of your ostomy, always opt for high-quality, medical grade ostomy supplies. At Byram Healthcare, we’re committed to helping improve the life of people living with an ostomy and offer a wide range of ostomy supplies, ostomy bags, and support systems.