How to Exercise with an Ostomy

Laura Cox, LPC
Ostomy Lifestyle Specialist | Shield HealthCare
03/10/15  5:36 PM PST
exercise with an ostomy

It’s a pretty well-known fact that exercise increases the release of endorphins in the human brain. This increased release is responsible for mood boosts and decreased pain perception. On top of that, exercise makes bones stronger, and the heart more efficient. These four very useful side effects of exercise are just some of reasons exercise is great for you!

Click on the button below to watch Laura’s video about exercising with an ostomy, or click on the links to find more information specific to exercising with an ostomy:

Exercise Advice from Laura Cox

When I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis and later had surgery to give me an ostomy, I thought my workouts had come to an end. After doing some research I realized exercising every day was still a tangible goal for me to achieve; I just had to make a few modifications to my old workout routine.

First, it is important that you make sure you get your doctor’s approval before you begin exercising again. Although you should wait a while until you intensely exercise, start walking as soon after surgery as you can handle! It’s important to get your endurance back as soon as possible. When you feel ready, add other types of exercise like running, biking, hiking, swimming, Pilates, or yoga. I waited about three and a half months after surgery before I started lifting very light weights.

Having an ostomy makes it easier to become dehydrated, so it’s very important to exercise with a water bottle nearby. I generally eat some carbohydrates an hour before I workout – just something small. This will keep the liquids from running through you too quickly, increase their absorption, and help you stay hydrated! I also take Imodium® about an hour before a workout to keep my ostomy bag from filling as quickly as it would otherwise. After your work out, make sure you eat a good meal.

After having any type of abdominal surgery, the risk of getting a hernia goes up. When muscle is cut, potential weakness at the site of the incision increases, so I like to play it safe by not doing any direct abdominal workouts. Instead, I do a lot of stability exercises in which the core is engaged but does not strain the abdominal muscles; these include holding yoga poses like the tree pose, high lunge, and one-legged seated chair. Engage your core and increase stability and balance by flexing your abdominal muscles in these poses.

Another way I avoid getting a hernia is by wearing a hernia belt or Spanx-type garments every time I workout. These products also make exercising more comfortable by keeping my ostomy in one place while I move around. You can also read my article about ostomy products that can help reduce risk of hernias and other complications.

The most important piece of advice I can give is to listen to your body. If something hurts, stop! If you have a day when you wake up not feeling well, don’t push yourself to get your workout in; aim for tomorrow.  If you’re not improving as fast as you would like, or cannot do the things you used to, don’t judge yourself. Regaining strength is a long process that takes patience and tenacity. Take one day at a time.  Likely you will go on to do all the activities you loved before surgery, and possibly even be capable of doing activities you weren’t capable of before. If you haven’t started exercising, I challenge you to get off the couch, get moving, and get those endorphins flowing!

I hope you’re all happy and healthy!

– Laura

You can also find the related video to this article here.

For more information, see related articles and ostomy resources here:

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