Staying Active and Exercising After Ostomy Surgery

April 30,2024 |
swimming with ostomy

After undergoing ostomy surgery, maintaining an active lifestyle and engaging in regular exercise might seem daunting, but it's crucial for overall well-being and quality of life. While the idea of physical activity may raise concerns about complications or limitations, staying active after ostomy surgery is not only possible but also beneficial. By understanding the importance of exercise and learning how to safely incorporate it into your routine, you can effectively manage your ostomy while reaping all the physical and emotional benefits of staying active. Here are some helpful tips to get you started.

Is it Safe to Exercise with an Ostomy?

Living with an ostomy doesn't mean that you should forego physical activity and exercise. These kinds of healthy lifestyle habits can have several benefits for individuals who have undergone a colostomy, ileostomy, or urostomy. That doesn't mean you should be powerlifting in the gym a week post-op, but exercise with a stoma is safe once you've gotten the green light from a healthcare professional.

Moreover, you should always talk with your surgeon before resuming any abdominal exercises, heavy lifting, or strenuous sports and fitness plans to ensure your body is ready.

Benefits of Exercising with an Ostomy

People with an ostomy reap many of the same benefits of exercise as those without. Moving your body can help boost both physical and mental health, which may be particularly beneficial to individuals struggling with their new lifestyle. Other benefits include:

  • Improved blood circulation
  • A stronger immune system
  • Healthier weight
  • Increased confidence
  • Better digestion
  • More energy

Many of these benefits also contribute to fewer ostomy-related complications, better healing, and easier management of your condition.

How Does Stoma Surgery Impact Exercise?

Those with a strenuous exercise routine before surgery might need to change activities after stoma surgery. While you can still enjoy all the exercises and activities you once loved, you'll need to learn how to navigate working out with an ostomy pouch. This will include finding a bag that has a secure fit, emptying your pouch before or during your workout, properly supporting your abdomen, and listening to your body.

Properly fitting pouching systems shouldn't leak, but as a precaution, you may want to double-check as you navigate through your workout. You can also use an ostomy support belt or waistband around your stoma that helps keep your pouch in place. If you have any questions or concerns about living an active lifestyle with your type of ostomy, reach out to your stoma nurse, doctor, or surgeon.

Tips for Exercising After Ostomy Surgery

In the weeks after surgery, you'll need to take some time off from exercising and give your body plenty of time to heal. That doesn't mean you shouldn't move at all, but starting any new program should wait until you get approval from your doctor. You can also ask for advice from your healthcare provider on how to recover and stay active in those first few weeks without overdoing it. To help, consider some tips for exercising after stoma surgery.

Start with Walking

In the initial stages of recovery after ostomy surgery, it's important to begin with low-impact exercises. Walking is an excellent way to gradually reintroduce physical activity. Walking helps promote circulation, aids digestion, and supports overall well-being without placing excessive strain on the body. Try to walk short distances at least a few times a day, gradually increasing length and intensity as you regain your strength.

Add in Some At-Home Exercises

Simple exercises such as gentle stretching, bodyweight movements, and resistance band exercises can be performed in the comfort of your own home and tailored to your individual needs and abilities. Some examples of good movements to try include:

  • Pelvic tilts
  • Knee rolls
  • Hip lifts
  • Seated leg raises
  • Glute bridges

Be sure to listen to your body, take breaks when needed, and consult with your healthcare provider or a physical therapist for guidance on appropriate exercises for your recovery journey.

Drink Plenty of Water

Regardless of the type of exercise you're doing, you need to drink plenty of fluids. Hydration is important for managing underlying conditions and staying healthy. It's also essential if you're sweating during a workout. Enough fluids can help aid digestion (reducing gas or possible odors) and help you make the most out of your workout routine.

Try Swimming with a Stoma

Although it can seem intimidating at first, swimming with an ostomy is absolutely possible. In fact, once your doctor has cleared you, it's a great low-resistance exercise to add to your routine. Still, a new ostomy can lead to many concerns, especially regarding leakage and pouch visibility. You can test the seal of your ostomy pouch and make sure that your skin barrier is secure prior to getting in the water. For ostomates who would prefer to keep things concealed, there are plenty of options for ostomy swimwear. As long as you feel confident and your doctor says you're ready, swimming is a great exercise.

Ride a Bike

Cycling can also be a great activity for new ostomates once your doctor has approved it. Find a comfortable bike with an adjustable seat to minimize pressure on your abdomen. Start with short rides on flat terrain and gradually increase the intensity as your strength and confidence grow. Be mindful of your body's signals, and stop cycling if you experience any discomfort or pain. You can even wear bike shorts that are made for ostomates to help you secure your pouch while you're on the go.

Do Yoga or Pilates

Yoga and pilates are great workouts that can help you adjust to life with a stoma, both mentally and physically. However, certain positions can strain your stoma during recovery. You might be alright doing some Hatha flows, but twisting into a scorpion or putting too much pressure on your core will take some building up.

Talk to your doctor to better understand your limitations as your body heals. You should refrain from doing anything too strenuous until your incision site fully heals and your abdominal muscles regain strength.

The most important thing is to listen to your body and avoid pushing yourself to perform uncomfortable positions or overexert yourself. Yoga and pilates both allow you to move at your own pace, regardless of whether you're taking an online class or an in-person one.

Be Careful if Playing Contact Sports

Getting back into contact sports requires a little more consideration and consultation. While sports can be a great workout and serve as a great social activity, you don't want to put your stoma or overall health at risk. Football, basketball, or martial arts involve physical contact and rapid movements that could potentially impact your abdomen and ostomy site. Therefore, you need to understand precautions and the importance of protective gear well in advance.

Try Alternative Core Exercises

New ostomates may have weakened core muscles due to the surgery itself, bowel disease, and previous lifestyle habits. However, sit-ups and crunches with a pouch might be a bit uncomfortable. To help you build back your core strength and keep your weight in check, start to introduce stability exercises that don't require hinge movements. This can include things like planks, bird-dogs, leg raises, and more.

Avoid Any Heavy Lifting for a While

Lifting weights is possible, but you'll likely need to wait a bit longer to start. Talk to your doctor about your current health, and please be aware of the common problems that can happen and how to address them. For example, your doctor may recommend wearing a support belt or binder to support abdominal muscles during weight lifting and avoid problems or complications like hernias.

Be Aware of Possible Complications When Exercising with an Ostomy

People with a stoma should also be aware that potential complications can occur when working out. Some of the most common things to be aware of include:

  • Ostomy pouch leakage
  • Parastomal hernia
  • Dry mouth
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or stomach cramps
  • Light-headedness
  • Dehydration

If you experience any of these issues, contact your healthcare professional for help. You may need to undergo treatment or find a new pouch to support your lifestyle by staying fit.

Byram is committed to doing our part to improve the lives of those living with ostomies through convenient product delivery and a diverse ostomy product catalog. We work with Medicare, Medicaid, and most private insurance companies to help you get the most out of your healthcare plan. Contact us today to get started with your order or if you have any questions about our products.