Playing sports and staying active with an ileostomy

Everyone needs daily exercise to keep good health and body function. An ostomy should not keep you from exercising and playing sports, although athletes sometimes wear longer shirts or shorts with higher waistbands, depending on the location of the stoma.

There are a few safety measures you should think about. For instance, many doctors recommend avoiding contact sports because of possible injury to the stoma from a severe blow or because the pouching system may slip. But special protection can prevent these problems. Weight lifting could cause a hernia at the stoma. Check with your doctor about such sports. Indeed, people with ostomies are distance runners, weight lifters, skiers, swimmers, and take part in most other types of athletics.

Swimming

You can swim with your pouching system in place. Remember these points:

  • If you use a support ostomy belt, you can leave it on if you want to.
  • You may want to protect the barrier by taping the edges with waterproof tape.
  • Before swimming, empty your pouch and remember to eat lightly.

Choosing a swim suit

You may want to choose a swim suit that has a lining for a smoother profile. Dark colors or busy patterns can also help hide the pouching system.

For women:

  • Consider a suit with a well-placed skirt or ruffle.
  • You may also wear stretch panties made especially for swim suits.

For men:

  • Try a suit with a higher waist band or longer leg.
  • You may also wear bike shorts or a support garment sold in men’s underwear departments or athletic wear departments under your bathing suit.
  • Some men may prefer to wear a tank top and trunks, if the stoma is above the belt line

In its original form this document was written by the United Ostomy Association, Inc. (1962-2005) and reviewed by Jan Clark, RNET, CWOCN and Peg Grover, RNET. It has since been modified and updated by:

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master’s-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Last Medical Review: December 2, 2014 Last Revised: December 2, 2014

American Cancer Society medical information is copyrighted material. For reprint requests, please contact permissionrequest@cancer.org.