Exercises to Strengthen Abdominal Muscles after Colostomy

Feb 18, 2017 4:44 pm

I had a colostomy when I was a kid. I thought I had recovered just fine until last year when I started having hernia symptoms. After several months and a CT scan to see how the surgeon would need to repair it, they found out I don't have a hernia. I do, however, have abdominal muscles that developed really weak since I was so young when I had the surgeries, and lots of scar tissue. I was told they can't do anything about the scar tissue at this point, but that if I strengthen the muscles, that will help with the pain a lot. I was wondering if anyone else has run into this after a reversal? Most of the exercises I've tried, I can tell almost right away put too much strain on those muscles. Does anyone know of any exercises that can help with this? It's been almost 20 years since I had mine, so my doctor doesn't really know what to recommend.

Feb 18, 2017 11:05 pm

Pinky, I would try to get my doctor to write a prescription for occupational therapy. A therapist recently explained to me that in general, physical therapy was waist down, occupational therapy was waist up. In theory, either could help with your stomach muscles, so explain to your doctor what you want. A therapist can help with extra light exercise and increase the load as you get stronger. Hope this helps.

Gray Logo for MeetAnOstoMate

Why Join MeetAnOstoMate?

First off, this is a pretty cool site with 35,000 members who truly understand you.

It's not all about ostomy. We talk about everything.

Many come here for advice or to give advice, others have found good friends, and some have even found love. Most importantly, people here are honest and genuinely care.

🛑 Privacy is very important - we have many features that are only visible to members, ensuring a safe and secure environment for you to share and connect.

Create an account and you will be amazed by the warmth of this community.

Feb 19, 2017 8:23 am

One of the things I was told about exercise is that you ought to be starting with wheat you can cope with and working up to more as you progress. It was described as JND - Just Noticeable Difference. That is, you do just enough so that you can feel it, then hold it there for a few moments before exercising in a different way and repeating the JDD principle. It is surprising how quickly the amount you can do increases imperceptibly.

I hope this helps.

Best wishes


Feb 20, 2017 3:57 am

Hi: There are walking DVDs by Leslie Sansone. They are simple but they work. I had my surgery in May 2016.

I am a workout junkie. As soon as I was able to exercise, I went right to her DVDs. When I wanted to get back in shape,

I always start with them. There is a large selection from very simple and you can do more challenging ones the stronger you get.

I hope this helps you. Please at least look her up.

Pray for peace, Hana

Feb 21, 2017 8:39 pm

I can't help but think that very gentle Pilates-type exercises would be a good start.

But after my ileostomy last year, being keen to get back my flat tummy (Ha!), I was referred to an excellent physiotherapist.

Two exercises that I use daily (being a lazy exerciser ;) ): I bought a cheap kids beach ball, inflate it but keep it soft. Lie on the bed, place your ankle on the ball and draw it towards you slowly and controlled, pulling your tummy button in at the same time, then roll away. Repeat for a few minutes, then do the other leg, and then try both legs together. I do this while watching the news, so I have a 20-minute session. Then try moving your leg out to the side.

Even better, though, see if you can get a balance cushion; it looks like a flying saucer. Put it on a flat stool in front of the computer so you use it and don't ignore it ;-) Quite simply, lift your feet off the floor and hold your balance using your tummy muscles... You can also try one leg at a time and eventually make this harder by extending your arms out to the side or up or lifting alternate legs.

A physiotherapist or Pilates instructor would help you progress. Good luck, Ali

Words of Encouragement from Ostomy Advocates I Hollister
Feb 22, 2017 2:58 am


I've had some of the same issues you're experiencing. I had my 3 abdominal/ileostomy surgeries when I was 15-19, and due to some medical side effects (osteoporosis at 15), I wore a back brace for a year. By the time I got out of it, I was 16, and back then no one suggested physical therapy. I sort of "rehabbed" myself, swimming, bike riding, dancing, etc. But I never really walked right or was able to run again (my gait was off). But I managed to chase after my two babies, miracles both, since I didn't think I'd be able to have children after all the surgery.

Fast forward 30+ years... and a significant weight gain. I joined a gym/fitness center associated with my local hospital. I was having a lot of medical issues and had lost flexibility and range of motion... so with the help of trainers, I wanted to try to repair my body. I had such uneven skills that several trainers wanted me evaluated for physical therapy, and that's how I discovered that I had virtually no lower belly muscles. I had to relearn how to walk (for form and motion) and not plod, and balance (while walking) had become a real issue. I worked hard at it for more than three years and then had some more medical issues that set me back... So here I am again, starting over, both with walking, balance, and trying to stimulate whatever abdominal muscles I have to work again. It isn't easy, but improvements are possible. Local trainers at regular gyms do not always give you the best advice. Physical therapists have more to offer and can help you pick exercises that are right for you. I'm lucky that the physical therapy dept. is right next to the gym, so when I'm not sure about some moves... I can "pick the brain" of one or more of the therapists. Best of luck to you. Marsha.

Feb 22, 2017 3:41 am

Marsha, thank you for joining in. You gave me new information I did not know before. I have a tremendous amount of respect for you over what you have gone through and still have the will and self-respect to be the best you can be. I lost about 60 lbs during the two months after the surgery. I used to have an 18-inch neck with a 54-inch chest and 19-inch biceps. Not bad for a 73-year-old man. Now I don't look in the mirror because the chest, shoulders, and arms are gone. I look hollow-chested and bent over, in addition to feeling so weak and tired that I can only walk about 200 feet before I must stop and rest. Still, I am grateful to be alive and (don't tell anyone because old people are supposed to forget about sex!) My wife and I have a healthy sex life!


Past Member
Jul 27, 2018 1:24 pm

Good morning from Maine. I was born in Brinkley, which is up the road a piece from you. I grew up in Texarkana, and moved up here many moons ago, to escape the feeling of living in a sauna...lol

looking forward
Feb 16, 2019 1:45 pm

Don't worry, I am only 3 months out and still feeling tired, but you will start to eat when you are ready. It will come back.