Exercising with a colostomy bag

You’ll quickly find that your colostomy bag doesn’t limit you at all. Sure, you may need to make a few tweaks to your wardrobe and get in the habit of carrying a small supplies kit, but beyond that, it is business as usual.

The same goes for playing sport and exercising. With a few safety precautions, you can enjoy a healthy and active lifestyle. To help you out, here’s a quick guide on getting back in the gym, or back on the court.

Get professional advice

Your first step should be to consult your healthcare team. Talk to them about how your body is coping post-operation and discuss your general energy levels. Your doctor will always be the best judge of how well you’re progressing and will be able to advise whether or not you have healed sufficiently to resume physical activity.

Next, chat to them about what kind of exercise or sport you want to do. Unfortunately, contact sports will likely to be ruled out as they may pose a danger to your colostomy bag. But it is just as easy for you to enjoy the thrill of fast-paced competition in other sports. Who knows, you might actually love playing tennis more than rugby! And if you enjoy running, swimming could be a good alternative post-op as the movements have a much softer impact on your body.

Professional advice is especially important for weightlifters. Strenuous activity can damage unhealed stomas and even healed patients may require a device to support the abdomen during lifting sessions.

Get kitted out

Obviously, you’re going to want to ensure that your colostomy bag is snug and secure as you run, jump, swim and lift. Support ostomy belts can be worn underneath gym clothing, keeping the colostomy bag firmly against your torso to prevent it from slipping during vigorous movements.

For all you swimmers out there, there’s always the general paranoia of a leak ruining your day (even though the likelihood of this happening is slim), so use a stick-on pouch and think about lining the edges with waterproof tape. Then it is simply a matter of getting in the habit of keeping spare colostomy bags and accessories in your sports bag, just as you would with a drink bottle and sweat towel.

Know your limitations

There’s simply no reason why you need to resume training by bench-pressing the same weight you used to immediately after surgery. For all types of sport and exercise, you need to ease back into it slowly. You’ve just undergone a serious operation, so things like pride and ambition need to take a back seat to safety and common sense. You can’t afford to injure your stoma, bring on a hernia, or put your body under any kind of pressure.

As you gradually work your way back up to your pre-operation fitness levels, it can be helpful to keep a diary of your progress and fitness benchmarks, along with notes about how you feel after exercising. Again, how hard you train is something you should discuss with your doctor, as they are in the best position to advise you during your recovery phase and beyond.