University of the Highlands and Islands

Exercising with a stoma

It is estimated that around 13000 people undergo stoma surgery in the UK every year due to inflammatory bowel disease or bowel cancer. A stoma is an opening on the front of the abdomen which is created during surgery to allow faeces or urine to exit the body and be collected in a bag on the outside of the body. Many people with a stoma report feeling tired and unattractive and worry about their stoma bag leaking. As a result, people with a stoma are often wary of physical activity despite strong evidence that exercise improves the quality of life in patients with cancer or inflammatory bowel disease. Now researchers - led by Professor Gill Hubbard, head of research at the university’s department for nursing – are conducting what is believed to be the first study into how patients with a stoma can exercise safely.

The researchers trained three physical activity instructors and, with the help of stoma patient volunteers, developed an exercise manual that combines aerobic, flexibility and muscle strengthening exercises. The physical activity instructors are now carrying out trials with nine bowel cancer volunteers who have undertaken a bespoke 12-week programme. They meet the patient in a leisure centre and offer guidance either at the centre or via video conferencing and phone calls. It is hoped that further research, based on the results of this first trial, will follow with a group of 1,000 patients.

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