Apr 20, 2017
By Al Edwards
You would think that spending time outdoors is an ostomates worst nightmare... away from supplies, bathroom facilities and a comfortable space...
...to be honest it can be the complete opposite. Providing you are organised then there is no reason not to enjoy the great outdoors. Wild-camping in the middle of Dartmoor is an amazing experience, no need to feel self-conscious as there is hardly anyone there, spending time in the woods cooking around a fire, chilling and listening to nature is a great way to relax and de-stress. You don't have to climb any mountains or swim any oceans to feel the benefits, start small, something you are comfortable with, a walk to the local shops, a short woodland walk or wander along a canal or river can make a huge difference to your day.
The benefits of getting outdoors are immense, research has proven that just 10 minutes outside can dramatically change your mood and greatly benefit your physical health too. The fresh air, gentle exercise and sunlight are all beneficial and can aid a good nights sleep, I don’t know about you but that’s one thing I can struggle with if I’ve had a duvet day. The absorption of vitamin D can helps prevent infections, keeping colds and flus at bay, help with weight loss and help combat depression. The fresh air, well it helps energise you, helping you feel motivated and giving that ‘feel good factor’. Then there is ‘brain fog’, that feeling of your brain grinding to a halt, struggling to remember what you went to the kitchen for. My mother always said I had a “brain like a sieve”, I did notice it became worse post surgery and definitely noticeable on those duvet days. Getting outdoors can waken those brain cells, increased oxygen levels and endorphins flowing round the body.
But if the thought of stepping out the door fills you with dread, the thought that everyone will see your bag, that people will know you have a colostomy; there is no need to panic. There are clothing and support products out there, gentle support belts and underwear designed by ostomates to help ostomates. I still have the odd day where I’m a little more self-conscious about my stoma but have to go out, I work full time. I have a noticeable parastomal hernia, but wear a level 3 support belt when I’m outdoors. I always carry spare bags with me, I have a carry case from Trio with my ‘spares’, sometimes it will sit in the car as a ‘just in case’ other times I have it on me 24/7. I’ve changed my bag in the boot of my car before, in the middle of Dartmoor, even halfway up a mountain in Scotland. If anyone asks about it then I see it as a great way to educate. Go out with family, a friend or neighbour, if you do find being outdoors frightful then enlist someone. My recovery from surgery was during the winter, I have two dogs that need a lot of exercise, and I mean a lot! I enlisted them, a walk in all weathers along a 3.5-mile beach still isn’t enough for them, but it worked wonders for me.
There is no excuse for not getting outdoors, but sometimes we seem to find one…
...the weather, the cost or think ‘I can’t possibly do that!’ We’re all individual and all deal with our ostomy in different ways, which is rightly so. But if you want to get out more and be active then start small, set yourself a little goal and get outside. The important thing is to listen to your body and enjoy the power of nature.
Al runs Stress Free Outdoors, a ‘profit for purpose’ organisation in Cornwall. The premise is to support people, with an IBD or Ostomy, connect with the outdoors and nature. With the aid of the great outdoors, mother nature and a chilled relaxed approach Al aims to help sufferers battle both the physical and psychological symptoms associated with an IBD or Ostomy.
For more information about sport and fitness after stoma surgery download our Active Ostomates booklet
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