Exercises with an Ostomy

Exercises with an Ostomy


There exists a positive correlation between weight bearing exercises and bone density. Particularly with age, bones weaken and muscle tissue fades away. Some weight training may help check this negative progression. However, avoid any lifting for at least 12 weeks after your ostomy surgery. You may do strength training with caution. Use a mirror to follow proper technique. Start work on the large muscles: legs and upper torso. Because of the ostomy, you will need to start very soft, doing just a few repetitions and immediately stopping if fatigued. As a general rule, something that cannot be lifted comfortably 20 times is too heavy. Build up slowly and rest plenty between sets. Drink during your workout and eat well afterwards. If you are consistent, you will see the benefits. Lifting is a strenuous activity that creates considerable abdominal pressure. You should always wear an ostomy support belt to diminish risks of injuries and parastomal hernias.

Core Muscle Conditioning

Strengthening core muscles makes it easier to perform most activities. They help maintain adequate back posture and take stress away from the back reducing chances of back pain. Core muscles run through the abs, back and pelvis. The main ones include the Rectus Abdominis (better known as the “six-pack”), External and Internal Obliques (sides and front of abdomen), Transversus Abdominis (key abdominal muscle beneath obliques, extends around the back bone providing shield and support), Hip Flexors (pelvic front and upper thighs), Hip Adductors (mid thighs), Gluteus Maximus, Medius, Minimus (sides and back of hip).

There are various exercises meant for core muscles. Many may be done at home on a mat or carpet and require no equipment. Breathe deeply while doing them and do not hold your breath. Muscle core exercises are useful, but is advisable that you check your proneness to parastomal herniation with your health professional before engaging in a routine.

Abdominal Exercises-Crunches

If you have been inactive, your abdominal muscles will be weak. It is highly recommended that you use a support belt (go for the ventilated kind). Doing sit-ups perhaps has the greatest risks of parastomal hernias as there might be excess pressure on the debilitated abdominal muscles. Appropriate crunch technique requires that you lie on your back with knees bent and a foot apart. Bring your arms to your chest (do not place them behind the head), contract your abdominal muscles, raise your torso away from the floor, hold your body for three breaths and lie back on the floor. Be gentle and repeat as many times as you can while maintaining form. You may also try reverse crunches.

Other Recommended Core Exercises

Check low impact activities such as Yoga, Tai-Chi and Pilates. They are smooth but very demanding work-outs, and they all target and bolster core muscles. Incorporate isometric exercises like the plank (abdominal bridge), side plank, reverse plank, the back bridge. Try also the hip lift, oblique twist, lunge with twist, push-ups and squats. When doing these exercises, contract your transversus abdominis muscle. Do sets of five. As you progress, increase repetitions to 5, 10, and 15. You may add a Swiss ball, medicine balls, balance boards, or wobble boards to the routine.


We are designed to walk. Walking is a first good step to break into an exercise routine. Walking helps stabilize blood pressure and improves cardio conditioning. It is a low-impact and effective activity, but you must go slow. Be sure to get comfortable sneakers. Do not assume that since it’s “just” walking any shoe will do. Start with short walks and gradually increase distance and pace. Monitor your work-outs based on time not distance. Shoot for at least 30 minutes and make an hour your ultimate goal. Do it at least 4 times per week. Besides helping you get back in form, walking will be an aid to controlling your weight, improving digestion and discharge. It will also relieve tension and improve blood circulation.

Contact and Team Sports

An ostomy should not prevent you from practicing contact or team sports. As long as one re-builds stamina and strength moderately, you can take up just about any sport: football, soccer, karate, wrestling, basketball, water polo, the list goes on. Damaging the stoma is rather difficult, but if an accident were to happen, dealing with a stoma is usually better than repairing a broken arm or a pulled knee ligament. So aside from emptying and securing the bag before the activity for both comfort and to avoid any embarrasments (ripped bag), there is not much else to worry. Once those who cannot live without contact sports learn that the are no medical barriers to practice them at will, little should come between them and their pastime.


Swimming is an excellent sport for ostomates. It is gentle on your abdominal muscles and works out your full body. If you use a flange, make sure you change it a few hours prior to your session. Better yet, choose a product without a flange. If wearing a belt, go for the rubber kind as cloth belts stretch. Learn to gauge your metabolism so that you can swim with a light pouch. If you are concerned about your pouch being visible, there are ways to cover it up. Use mini-bags (non drainable and with no filters) and wear a patterned suit. Try a waterproof tape around your bag, and a belt under the suit. For men, select a size bigger. Trunk suits and a tight lycra underpants work well. For women, choose lycra. It makes you look slimmer and will keep the bag in place. Suits with skirts, shorts or sarons are good alternatives. Colostomists may substitute the bag for a stoma cap.

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