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Exercising with a stoma is possible; research from University of the Highlands and Islands


By Val Sweeney

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Inverness fitness instructor Andrew Morris (fifth left) and Professor Gill Hubbard, of UHI, (seventh left) were part of the research team involved in the project.
Inverness fitness instructor Andrew Morris (fifth left) and Professor Gill Hubbard, of UHI, (seventh left) were part of the research team involved in the project.

RESEARCH scientists at the University of the Highlands and Islands have produced a professionals’ guide to exercise for patients recovering from bowel surgery.

The manual, believed to be the first of its kind, was compiled as a result of research funded by the charity Bowel and Cancer Research.

It is aimed at physical activity professionals helping stoma patients return to full health.

Principal investigator Professor Gill Hubbard said stoma patients were wary of physical activity.

“We know that people who have been treated for bowel cancer or conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease improve their chances of living a longer, healthier life if they are physically active but they worry that their stoma appliance might leak, or that they might get a hernia,” she said.

“Their self-confidence can often hit rock bottom.”

Her five-strong team recruited nine stoma patients and consulted stoma nurses and physical activity specialists to come up with a 12-week programme.

Three instructors led weekly sessions in a gym, outside or via video conferencing and phone calls.

Inverness fitness consultant Andrew Morris said there was much potential for people with a stoma to exercise such as in the gym with cardiovascular machines, treadmills, bikes, upper and lower body machines, or outside.

“I’ve seen benefits such as reduced anxiety levels, and people returning to work earlier,” he said.

Volunteer Rebecca Langley had worried about running after an ileostomy.

“I didn’t know if it would be safe,” she said.

“I have definitely benefited from this programme, both mentally and physically.

“I found it supportive, specialised and personalised.”

Chief executive of Bowel and Cancer Research, Deborah Gilbert, said about 13,000 people had stoma surgery every year.

“While there is clear evidence that physical activity improves the quality of life for patients with cancer or IBD, those with a stoma are less likely to participate,” she said.

“We are delighted to have funded this important study.”


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