As with most things in ostomy life, exercise is something that needs to be taken on board with the individual in mind. Everybody is different when it comes to how soon they feel comfy to exercise after ostomy surgery, what exercise they want to incorporate into their lives and for how long they want to exercise in their daily lives as they move forward with their recovery.
Disclaimer: As always, this post is from our Social Media & Marketing Specialist, Amy's, experience of living with a permanent ileostomy, Crohn's Disease and from what she has researched. Nothing in our blog posts should be taken as medical advice. It's always best to consult a medical professional if you have queries or concerns.
Knowing how soon to exercise
When you've had ostomy surgery, it's vital you communicate with your medical team as they will be able to help you gauge when it is safe to start exercising and professionals such as your stoma nurse should be able to advise you with what gentle exercises to start with and what support you will need.
When we talk about exercise, a lot of people feel that this must mean going to the gym or making some huge effort to do sports, which isn't the case. Walking can be a great form of exercise in itself, and it is important you go at your own pace and input exercise into your life in a way that is healthy and works for you. A lot of medical professionals advise to get walking as soon as is comfortably possible after surgery and to start with short walks and increase gradually with someone you trust to accompany you. It is generally around 6-8 weeks after ostomy surgery, once you have been to your first outpatient's appointment, that you can look into more of a formal exercise routine, if this is what you wish.
A lot of patience after surgery is often required with ostomy life as you adapt to your new life. This is the same with exercise and it is important to do only what feels right and to not push yourself too much and too soon, as this could lead to injury. Also, it is vital to use the right support. It is important to remember that depending on how your surgery was performed (laparoscopically or open surgery) that the abdominal muscles need usually around 3-4 months to recover. New ostomates are generally advised to not do any heavy lifting or strenuous exercise for at least 12 weeks after surgery.
Getting the right support - emotionally
Being a stoma supportwear company, we are passionate not only about providing stoma support to wear, but also providing emotional support. We have a general e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) and also Amy's e-mail (email@example.com) which you can use to drop us a message. Amy has had her permanent ileostomy for 11 years now due to severe Crohn's Disease & a benign tumour and enjoys talking to our customers and lending them an empathetic ear (or eye, if it's via message!)
You can also reach out to us on our social media accounts such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Tiktok.
Getting the right support - physically
Here at Comfizz, we offer a 3-level support system to accommodate for your individual needs when living with a stoma, incontinence or post-surgical wounds and to allow you to have a more custom, closely-suited level of support, especially when exercising.
We offer different support levels through our products to adapt to your needs and our products are designed to promote your stoma functionality at the same time as getting the right level of support.
Clinical trials done by Comfizz collaborating with a specialist stoma nurse at Queen's Hospital London ran over a period of 12 months confirmed that by wearing Comfizz support wear, incidences of hernias decreased significantly. You can read Lorraine's article here about this and this trial was also peer reviewed and published in the British Journal of Nursing (BJN) in 2014.
From level 1 being the lightest level of support to level 3 being our most firm, here is a breakdown of what those levels mean:
Level 1 - light support range wear that provides soft and gentle support and can be worn all day.
Level 2 - medium support designed for supporting hernias or to give extra support when exercising.
- Level 3 - premium, firm support ideal for holding hernias, protecting hernia repairs & during strenuous activity.
Recently, our Social Media & Marketing Specialist, Amy, wore our Level 2 high waisted bamboo leggings to go on a countryside walk (pictured below), and has also worn our Level 1 leggings in everyday life for taking her dog on shorter walks or even for lounging around the house and running errands.
Our leggings are part of our new products range and are ideal for exercise to bring you that extra level of security, confidence and support.
Some of our other products that we regularly recommend for exercise include:
- Comfizz Level 2 Boxers (a good one to go for for cycling, especially!)
- Comfizz Level 2 Briefs
- Comfizz Level 2 10" Double Layer Waistband
- Comfizz Level 2 Organic Cotton Bra Top
Our bra top is a great piece to pair with our leggings or briefs.
Layering garments to get your custom level of support
Our garments can be combined and layered to achieve a custom level of support. For example, wearing two Level 1 garments on top of one another will equate to a Level 2 support. You could give this a go with two Level 1 waistbands or even a boxer with a waistband on top.
Ways to exercise
As mentioned at the start of this blog post, walking is a great place to start after surgery.
These exercises can be done from after surgery and whether you're lying down, sat up or stood. Start by placing your hand on your stomach, then breathe in slowly and count to four. Then, hold your breath for three seconds and breathe out to the count of four. Repeat this around twenty times, a few times a day. As the days from surgery go on, increase the number of counts when breathing in, holding, and breathe out a little at a time as you feel yourself get stronger. Remember, this is meant to be comfortable, so breathe when you feel you need to!
This can be a good way to get back outdoors, enjoy fresh air and also works a lot of our muscle groups. It's also a good way to build up exercise and to use to do in smaller, regular intervals, stopping to take breaks when needed and wearing support wear, of course.
Swimming can be a great way to get back into exercise after stoma surgery. Swimming works all muscle groups and the water acts as extra support. There is no reason that you can't swim with a stoma bag and it is safe to do so (of course, once you are given the go ahead medically). If you are worried about your bag not sticking, the good news is that a lot of people have never had an issue or needed extra products, but if you would like peace of mind, you can add ostomy flange extenders round the bag to act as extra adhesive.
The longer you spend in the water, the more gooey the outside edge of your ostomy bag adhesive gets, which is why it's advisable to change your bag afterwards.
Pilates & yoga
Both great for rebuilding your core strength and balance, either of these types of exercise can be done at home or away from home. Yoga is also a great form of relaxation and something that can holistically promote your well-being. It has also been known to help low mood. Chair yoga is a really gentle form of yoga also that is suitable for all abilities.
Stretches and more for after surgery
What stretches and exercises you do depends on how far after surgery you are. Farmoderm has some great advice and exercises to try, depending on how far along you are in your recovery.
Cycling is a fantastic way to keep fit and work at an intensity that works best for you. Going with a friend can be a great way to build your confidence and also help you stay motivated, or you could try using an exercise bike at the gym or at home if you're not quite ready for the open road. It's also important to remember that bike seats are often quite uncomfortable, so to try and find one that is as comfortable as possible. Ostomates who have also had their rectums removed will be more than likely advised to avoid this until their wounds are fully healed.
Start with gentle bike rides and gradually increase the time, distance and intensity the more routes you go on. It's always a good idea to take a spare ostomy bag kit you, as well as vital hydration (ie drinks with rehydration tablets) and to wear the right support. Some ostomates also choose to place extra flange extenders around their bag for piece of mind and added security when they sweat.
Dance in the comfort of your own home like nobody's watching! Dance is a great form of exercise and can also be a great mood booster. Of course, only do what feels comfortable.
- Don't exercise right after a meal and make sure you fuel your body with the right food half an hour - hour before.
- Maintain a balanced diet.
- Empty your bag before exercising.
- Don't push yourself. Too much exercise or exercise that is too strenuous too soon can cause injury.
- Always stop if you feel pain or something feels too much.
- Consider getting a personal trainer who can help educate you and guide you in your new exercise regime.
- Hydrate - drink plenty of fluids, usually squash or with rehydration solution in to help replace water lost through sweat.
There is no reason that you shouldn't be able to have an active life after stoma surgery but it is important that you do this in the right way, gradually over time to promote recovery.
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