A man and woman in hiking gear standing at the top of a mountain looking down at a path into the horizon.

Exercising with an Ostomy

I have always enjoyed being active. For years I danced recreationally and professionally. I also took up powerlifting for a few years. Working out and doing physical activities has always been a form of self-care, a time to clear my head and sweat out my frustrations. Even in severe pain and weak from my radical cystectomy, I was already planning on how and when I would be able to get back in the gym. After a lengthy recovery and being able to do nothing more than just walk, I have finally gotten back into the rhythm of working out and getting my sweat on.

Ostomy bag and exercising

However, I have a new concern when doing anything physical, my ostomy bag. I need to support my bag to prevent pulling which is not only uncomfortable but can cause the adhesive to fail and suddenly I will find myself with a leaky ostomy bag!

Proper exercise attire to the rescue

For bag support, I have found a pair of high-waisted leggings or bike shorts with firm compression that provides all the support I need for my bag while doing a typical gym workout. Guys shouldn’t shy away from compression shorts either for workouts! It is a fantastic and easy way to support your bag and your tummy while working out. If you want more support, I cannot recommend a stealth belt enough. Although an investment, it is a fantastic support accessory.

Let's get physical

Once you’ve figured out the best support for your ostomy bag then comes the fun part. Getting active! After any major surgery involving the abdomen and pelvis, care must be taken to prevent hernias. I always recommend getting guidance from a stoma nurse or your doctor about when it is ok to start exercising and what type of exercises are safest. Your first real exercise is just going to be walking, and I mean a whole lot of walking. I started with laps around my house, then trips to the mailbox, and worked my way up to about 3 miles every afternoon. As my body got stronger I was able to start running.

Start off small at first

After about 6 months I felt strong enough to get back in the gym. Again, checking in with my team I started small exercises that utilize my core muscles. I highly recommend sticking to bodyweight and stability-type movements when engaging those abdominal muscles and always be aware of straining. It is best to start easy and add more as you feel comfortable. These days I am back to weight training twice a week and it has given me a newfound confidence. Feeling stronger has allowed me to take on more activities and know my body can handle it.

Exercising ostomate

With my ostomy, I do it all. Long sweaty hikes, laps in the pool, relaxing yoga, and testing my squat weight limits. Really the big takeaway when getting back into physical activities post radical cystectomy is to start small and do what you enjoy. It takes a little creativity to find the right bag support and what activity makes you feel good, but very quickly we all realize that an ostomy is not going to hold you back from getting out there and getting your sweat on.

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