Can I exercise with an ostomy?
Yes, you can work out with your ostomy! In fact, people have competed in fitness competitions WITH their ostomies. Yes, they’re ripped and you can be too if that is your goal.
Exercise is key for ostomates. On a psychological level, it’s empowering and boosts your self-confidence, helping you adjust to such a drastic bodily change. On a physical level, it keeps you healthy and feeling good! The earlier you start, the better (so long as you have permission from your doctor). You can do just about any type of exercise with your ostomy that you want, from walking to martial arts. You might want to avoid extreme contact sports. If extreme sports are your passion, be careful, build your strength, find a stoma protector that works for you, and go for it! Then tell me about it.
Although you shouldn’t do any abdominal exercises or activities that really use your abdomen for the first 2-3 months, you will eventually be able to build up your strength to do the activities you did before surgery and even some new ones. It’s a great idea to consult with a physical therapist to learn how to safely strengthen your core.
Not sure where to start? Walk! Walking is important immediately after surgery to jumpstart your digestive system and kick it back into gear. As you heal, you’ll find yourself walking faster and for longer periods of time which is a great, low-impact exercise.
Other exercises great for ostomates are running, jogging, yoga, pilates (ask your teacher for modifications to avoid laying on your stomach), swimming, biking, and aerobic dance classes.
As an ostomate you’re at risk for a parastomal hernia, although the risk drops after the first couple months. A parastomal hernia happens when your organs bulge through a weakness in your abdominal wall where your stoma has been pulled through. Risk factors for parastomal hernias include being overweight and having weak abdominal muscles. They can be caused by straining or heavy lifting. Make sure you can talk while you exercise and try to avoid doing anything that requires you to strain, grunt, or hold your breath.
How do I prevent a hernia?
This was one of my biggest questions and it’s one that I’m still looking for answers for. Here’s an article about how wearing support gear can aid in hernia prevention. Support-wear is handy to use if you have a cough as well, to help prevent hernias. You can wear a hernia support belt to help protect yourself from developing one and should follow your doctor’s orders about not lifting more than 10 pounds in the first couple months after surgery. It’s important to keep yourself healthy and your muscles strong to prevent hernias.
Push yourself a little as you build back your strength so that you’re always improving, but listen to your body and don’t overdo it. Please make sure you ask your doctor’s permission before beginning to exercise.
Some people time their meals so that they don’t have a huge amount of output in the middle of their exercise, as that is not particularly comfortable and can make you more prone to leakage. It’s a good idea to bring an emergency kit, just in case.
Make sure you hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Us ostomates are at risk for dehydration which can lead to electrolyte imbalance and that’s no fun. Drink water and beverages that contain electrolytes to replenish yourself frequently.
Want to read about my personal exercise experiences? Check out my blog!