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Getting Active for the Summer: Our Top Tips for Exercising as an Ostomate

26th May 2020

There is no better place than being outdoors in summer. It’s not only good for your mental health and wellbeing, it also improves circulation, helps with concentration, increases vitamin D intake from the sunshine and  new research has shown that walking through the woods can even reduce your blood pressure! With all of these health benefits it’s important not to let having a stoma stop you from venturing out over the next few months.

After stoma surgery, the first few weeks and months may be difficult as it takes time to heal and adjust to having a stoma. It is important to do gentle exercises such as walking. Once your strength has returned, you should be able enjoy exercise, as you did before the operation. Gain advice from your surgeon or stoma nurse and check it is safe, before you are too adventurous!

Below are some of the ways in which you can exercise and how to do it safely.

Walking

Start with walking regularly and on a daily basis as this will help regain muscle strength which may have been lost whilst recovering from stoma surgery. Believe it or not, walking also helps prevent any issues with constipation! Whatever sports you have played in the past, you may enjoy them again with some adaptations, but it’s very important to build your strength up first.

Try some walks you haven’t been on before, explore the beautiful countryside. After social isolation ends and things return to normal it may be worth trying Nordic walking, it’s a fantastic workout in the outdoors and a great way of meeting new people. 

Make sure you don’t do any heavy lifting in the weeks immediately following surgery. Unless the surgery was done laparoscopically, the abdominal walls will have been weakened by incisions and must be given time to heal. Improper lifting or lifting too soon could cause issues such as hernias. Try not to lift even a vacuum cleaner or the laundry basket for those first few weeks.

Gym

When life has returned to normal again and we are able to freely socialise, try joining a gym. Gyms are great as you can pick and choose which classes you would like to try or you can hire a personal trainer to help with your regular exercise regime. Remember to avoid any abdominal exercise for a while until you have slowly built up these muscles.

Swimming

Swimming is a great form of exercise as it is not only a cardiovascular workout but it helps with toning your muscles too. When pools are open again make use of any facilities you have locally. If you are worried about your stoma bag leaking whilst you are swimming, you can speak to your stoma nurse for advice. There are also tailor made swimwear for ostomates which helps many people to feel more secure and less conscious.

Pilates & Yoga

Both of these forms of exercise are fantastic for building core strength in a controlled and safe way. With the current situation you won’t be able to join a class physically, but there are plenty of virtual classes that you’ll be able to find online. It might be worth speaking to your stoma nurse about a support garment to help protect your abdominal muscles.

Gardening

Gardening is an activity which you can choose to do anytime you like. It is also energetic, so don’t be surprised if you are tired afterwards! It is also very safe to do on your own or with a family member whilst we are all in isolation. What’s more, since the Garden Centres are starting to open again, now is the perfect time to enjoy a bit of gardening in the nice weather. Remember to be careful when lifting any heavy plant pots and be sure to take things slowly.

Additional tips:

  • Look at making the exercise a regular activity as you are more likely to stick at it.
  • Try to stick to the same time of day, so it becomes part of a healthy lifestyle.
  • Drink plenty of water to keep hydrated.
  • Wear comfortable clothes and footwear.
  • Keep a little bag of accessories (stoma pouch etc) in the car or with you in case an ‘emergency’ appliance change is needed!

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