The references on this page constitute specific recommendations compiled by Adrian March, principally in response to queries raised by or on behalf of colostomates, relating to exercise and sport. Please raise any queries, or suggest additions, to firstname.lastname@example.org.
All the suggestions made are based on extensive experience, and most have been approved by members of the medical profession, but it must be realised that Adrian does not know the colostomate who may be making use of them, and you are advised to show any recommendation relating to exercise or putting stress on the body to your GP or surgeon before following it.
What’s Your Sport? - Some suggestions for colostomates regarding participation in various sports, based on the biomechanics of the movements, and the extent to which the abdominal muscles are involved. It is becoming evident that more colostomates are working in the gym, and taking the use of weights right up to powerlifting level. Accordingly I have further supplemented the recommendations that I made only a month ago, to include work on the core musculature of the body. If your sport is not mentioned, or you would like more information, please email email@example.com and Adrian will do his best to advise. Updated August 2014.
Should I Wear a Support While Exercising? - I was recently asked this question by a sporting colostomate, and it prompted me to write a response for this page. It is a question best answered by another question: “Are you taking good care of your rectus abdominis?” If “Yes”, then your support is inside you, and you would not normally need another. If “No”, then you should be doing something about it! The rectus abdominis is the muscle which runs vertically down the front of your abdomen, from your rib cage to your pelvis, and it constitutes your protection against a hernia. A simple programme of situps will keep it in good condition: you can find an illustration and instructions in Exercise After Abdominal Hernia Repair. You can even do your situps in bed before you go to sleep - it doesn’t come any easier than that! I do 100 situps (2 sets of 50) on alternate nights before I go to sleep, but you don’t necessarily need to do that many if you don’t want to: I would suggest as a minimum 2 sets of 15. There is just one reservation which I would make: if for any reason you are handling a heavy weight (perhaps something in the garden), even a weight that you are used to, wear a support if the circumstances are such that the weight could possibly go out of control. And remember the Grunt Rule - if it makes you grunt, don’t do it!
Should I wear a Support? It depends also on Your Sport! The previous paragraph relates to the majority of sports, but there are some examples which merit more detailed attention. These are the ones in which a belt is worn to support the lower back, exemplified by weight training in the gym, and particularly by sports such as weightlifting and powerlifting. The majority of users do not understand that the support belt in the gym is not just a corset: it relies on the increase in intra-abdominal pressure in the course of a heavy lift to increase the support provided to the lower back - and an increase in intra-abdominal pressure is, of course, precisely what the ostomate should be avoiding! I speak with some authority on this subject, because as a powerlifter is used regularly to work with 160kg, and there was one exercise in which I lifted 500kg. The best advice I can give is to work hard to strengthen the rectus abdominis, treat the support belt more like a corset, always breathe out as you lift, and in the course of your rehabilitation increase your weights very cautiously. Needless to say, stop if you experience any unaccustomed pain, either during or after exercise, and think at least twice before trying for a “personal best”.
Return to Sport After Abdominal Surgery - Possession of a colostomy does not confer immunity from other abdominal surgery. Some colostomates, and indeed many non-colostomates, may be interested in this guide to a satisfactory return to sport following surgery, which outlines the various types of abdominal surgery, and provides appropriate advice on successful post-operative rehabilitation. This article is reproduced by courtesy of Sports Injury Bulletin, in which it first appeared. Further details of that journal can be found on the website www.sportsinjurybulletin.com.
Scuba With a Stoma - A relatively light-hearted discussion, from personal experience, of the additional considerations which need to be taken into account when an ostomate goes scuba diving, and an assurance that a stoma need not present any problems.
Using Public Swimming Pools - Ostomates may occasionally encounter a reluctance by pool managements to allow them to use public swimming pools, on alleged health and safety grounds. If it does not suffice to point out that a stoma bag is extremely secure, and that the health risk is negligible, then downloading and showing this information note from the Institute of Sport and Recreation Management should provide the solution. It is entitled “Access to Sport and Recreation Opportunities for People Using a Colostomy Bag” and advises managements that ostomates should be accorded all the facilities that are available to other users, plus, as far as possible, discreet changing facilities to minimise embarrassment.
Swimming After Abdominal Surgery - Swimming is often recommended as a good exercise for patients recovering from surgery, on the grounds that the body is supported by the water. What is forgotten is that all the forces exerted by the arms and legs impose stresses on the muscles of the abdomen and lower back, which have to be resisted if the stability of the body is to be maintained. These notes cover the precautions which should be taken in swimming the four basic strokes, and provide advice on other water exercise.
Swimming After Abdominal Surgery (for Enthusiasts and Competitors) - This is an extended version of the previously listed document, including more detailed recommendations for the four basic strokes, covering also starts and turns, and some advice on diving.