Maintaining a Healthy Stoma & Active Lifestyle with an Ostomy

When people first get a new colostomy or ileostomy, they often fear that their stomas or devices will interfere with their lives. New patients are concerned that they may not be able to exercise or play sorts as they once did.

In reality, most people can return to full activity after an ostomy. Once your stoma has healed you have fully recovered from your surgery, you can resume normal activity as recommended by your surgeon.

Importantly, “normal” activity does not simply include daily activities like washing or cooking; it also athletic activities such as jogging, cycling, and even swimming. As long as you are otherwise healthy and your physician has no objections, you could return to the same level of physical activity that you enjoyed before your surgery. In fact, many people find themselves in better overall health after their ostomy procedure. As a result, they strive to become even more physically fit than they were before surgery. Simply put, if your body is healthy enough for exercise, then your ostomy should not stand in your way.

Is there any exercise I cannot do with an ostomy?

An ostomy should not prevent most people from participating in any sport or exercise they choose. People with the colostomy or ileostomy can participate in virtually any noncontact sport, and even some sports with minor or incidental contact (e.g. baseball). People should consider whether taking a hit in their chosen contact sport could result in damage to the stoma (e.g. being tackled in football, being checked in hockey). Heavy weightlifting might also be in issue, because it greatly increases the pressure inside your abdomen. Your physician can help you decide what sports are appropriate for your particular condition, but surprisingly few athletic activities are completely off-limits.

Exercise is good for you…

It is probably not news to you that exercise is good for you, but the many benefits of exercise deserve repeating. Regular exercise can help reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease including coronary artery disease, heart attack, and stroke. If you have type 2 diabetes, exercise can help you control your blood sugars and improve insulin sensitivity. If you are overweight or obese, exercise can help you maintain a healthy weight and reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease. In addition, exercise can help keep your bones strong by preventing osteoporosis, decrease your risk of getting gallstones, and may even help you live longer.

Exercise is also good for your mental health and well-being. This is particularly important because many people who are new to ostomy surgery can struggle with anxiety and depression from time to time People who regularly exercise perform better on cognitive tests (i.e. they are just a little bit smarter). Regular exercise also reduces stress, anxiety, and symptoms of depression. For all of these reasons and more exercise is healthy and important, especially in people with stomas. (try a sample of Hy-Tape)

…Not getting enough exercise is bad for your stoma

People who undergo ileostomy or colostomy surgery are often told to maintain a healthy weight through diet and exercise. This is good advice in general, but it is particularly important for the health of the stoma. Excessive weight gain after surgery can cause a number of stoma complications. Excess weight can cause problems with pouch adherence, which can lead to pouch leakage. Individuals with type 2 diabetes heal more slowly, and have more wound complications around the stoma. Conversely, people who are able to control or reduce their body weight and tightly control their blood glucose levels have fewer ostomy-related complications. Therefore, exercise is important for the long term health and maintenance of your stoma.

Tip 1: Empty your ostomy before starting exercise

Most health professionals recommend emptying the ostomy pouch when it is about one third full. This is because excess weight in the pouch can put stress around the pouch seal. It is also good idea to empty the pouch right before engaging in any sport or other form of exercise, regardless of how full the pouch is at the time. This will maximize playing time, so you don’t have to stop exercising to empty your pouch. Interestingly, gastrointestinal tract motility slows down during active exercise, so your pouch may still be empty right after you exercise. Keep in mind, though, that gastrointestinal motility increases once exercise is over, so be prepared for more ostomy output after exercise. (Your results may vary)

Tip 2: Underwater sports require additional preparation 

Did you know that you may be able to go swimming with your ostomy? Once you get your doctor’s permission, your ostomy should not prevent you from participating in most water sports, or simply taking a dip in the pool. Watersports do take a little bit of additional preparation, however. You should make sure your pouch and stoma are watertight. You can form a watertight seal around your stoma using high quality waterproof tape. Also, remember to cover the vent on the deodorizing filter with waterproof tape before you go in the water. Read our article Swimming & Staying Active with an Ostomy.

Tip 3: Make sure your ostomy is secure

Exercise puts some additional stresses on the stoma and the ostomy pouch. In addition, exercise usually leads to some amount of perspiration, which can cause the wafer to lose adherence against the skin. For these reasons, it is important to properly secure the ostomy pouch to the skin prior to exercise. The best way to do this is by “framing” the wafer or baseplate with waterproof tape. Framing with tape essentially means placing strips of tape on all four sides of the stoma, holding the ostomy device to the skin.

Hy-Tape makes an excellent tape for this exact purpose. Hy-Tape’s “pink” tape is waterproof, so it holds well even through perspiration. It also holds strong, and can stand up to the jarring and jostling of most types of exercise. On the other hand, Hy-Tape is gentle on skin; its zinc oxide-based adhesive doesn’t irritate the skin (and may actually be soothing to delicate skin). Hy-Tape holds when you need it to, but comes off easily when you are ready to take it off, so it doesn’t damage your skin. Lastly, Hy-Tape is thin and conforms to the contours of your body and the stoma wafer. The edges don’t curl or roll, so it is virtually invisible under your uniform or workout gear. When you use Hy-Tape to secure your ostomy pouch, you can focus on the game and not on your ostomy. Purchase Hy-Tape today!