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It can be daunting to think about exercising or engaging in your favorite sports after ostomy surgery, but you can do it! We’re here to coach you with these tips and advice.

Q: When is it safe to start exercising after ostomy surgery?

A: Stoma surgery is a major event that should not be underestimated. The first few weeks or even months following the operation may be difficult as you adjust gradually to having a stoma. The easiest and most effective form of exercise can be walking. It’s best to check with your healthcare provider to determine the right time for you to begin exercising, as every person can be different.

Q: I’m nervous about doing sit-ups and crunches because I have heard that I could develop a hernia. Are there precautions I can take to avoid this?

A: There may be a risk you will develop a hernia around your stoma that can be associated with straining on heavy lifting and during strenuous abdominal activity. You can help prevent the development of a peristomal hernia by taking certain precautions. Keep your weight in check and talk with your surgeon before resuming any abdominal exercises.

Q: I love aerobics but I worry that all of that motion might cause pouch leakage. What can I do to minimize this?

A: Similar to participating in other sporting activities, you can wear certain clothing that can help ease your concerns. Use a support garment or a girdle to keep the pouch securely in place. Try different sporting outfits, such as running tights or Lycra® shorts to see what works best for you.

Q: Should I drink anything special to stay hydrated while exercising now that I have an ostomy?

A: To help hydrate your body, water is the best fluid as it is the most readily available. You can also get special rehydrating solutions from most pharmacies.

Q: How will I know that I am sufficiently hydrated?

A: One good sign of being well hydrated is passing clear or straw-colored urine throughout the day. Dehydration is a major concern for overachievers, whether they have stomas or not. Drink plenty of fluids at every opportunity to avoid problems with your stoma and with dehydration.

Q: I am still very tired after my surgery. What kind of exercise can I do to start out?

A: Begin by walking in your house. Special videos and DVDs, or even just some invigorating music will help set the pace. You might practice going up and down the stairs to increase stamina and endurance. But, if weather permits, walk outside in the fresh air to help boost your physical and mental spirits!

Q: Is there a special diet I should follow once I get active again?

A: Once you recover from surgery, your diet and state of nutrition should be getting back to normal. How and what you eat is as much a part of our individuality and lifestyle as our appearance and personality. Having a stoma should not restrict your individual preferences. It is important, however, to remember that chewing food thoroughly helps to avoid some possible digestive problems.

Q: I love swimming but I’m nervous that my pouch will become loose in the water. Is there anything I can do to make sure this doesn’t happen?

A: This is a valid concern for a person with an ostomy. To determine how your pouch might perform while swimming, it is recommended to “test” your pouch. Sit in bath water for a while and assure yourself that the seal stays snug and leak-free.

Q: My friends and I play rugby and I’d like to get back on the team, but I don’t want to damage my pouch or stoma. What can I do to protect it?

A: Having a stoma will mean planning ahead, but you can continue to participate in contact sports. You should take precautions to protect your stoma. For added security, some people use support garments or girdles to keep the pouch securely in place.

Q: I ran my first marathon after ostomy surgery and little red marks appeared on my stoma. What are these and should I be concerned?

A: With a lot of running, little red marks similar to mouth ulcers might appear on the stoma because of rubbing or chafing. They should heal quickly and disappear with rest. If they don’t resolve, contact your healthcare professional.

Q: When I exercise I perspire a lot. Is there anything I can use to avoid chafing around my pouch?

A: If your pouch fits properly and is not too long, it should not touch or rub against the skin. Empty your pouch before any strenuous activity as well to decrease the weight of your pouch. Consider using a pouch that has a comfort panel to avoid the pouch film from rubbing against your skin.

Q: I want to get back in the saddle. How can I get in touch with someone with an ostomy that rides horses?

A: If you would like to talk to someone about a particular sport, such as horseback riding, contact the United Ostomy Associations of America. They may be able to put you in touch with someone who currently enjoys the same sports you do and with someone who can give you some practical advice.

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Nothing contained herein should be considered medical advice. Medical advice can only be provided by an individual’s personal doctor or medical professional.

This article was made possible by a sponsorship from Hollister Incorporated.

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