How to Stay Active with a Feeding Tube

By May 21, 2019 Newsletter

A common myth of living with a feeding tube is that you can’t be active. On the contrary, tube feeding does not prevent you from engaging in exercise and physical activities. But you must be conscientious about what kinds of exercise you engage in and, in some cases, take steps to protect your tube or stoma site. In recognition of May being National Physical Fitness and Sports month, here are tips on how you can have an active lifestyle.

General exercise is good

For basic activities like walking and running, if you’re already physically able to do them, it should be safe once your stoma site is healed. For activities such as yoga or Pilates, discuss with your physician first, as this will engage the abdominal muscles directly. You may still be able to do those activities, but you want to be sure your tube won’t be dislodged, or your stoma irritated.

Keep in mind that, with any increased activity, you may require extra water at your feedings to replace what you lose during exercise.

Be wary of contact sports

Use caution with sports such as football or baseball, or any sport where you are likely to run into other players, a ball, or land roughly. These sports are not recommended because they can dislodge a tube or irritate a stoma site.

Go swimming

Swimming is a good way of keeping active and physically fit. As with any exercise regime, make sure to consult your physician.

For patients with NG tubes, be sure the tube is closed, clamped, and not hooked to a pump. If you’re patient with G-, GJ- and J-tubes, you can also swim, but be aware of the following:

  • For G-and J-tubes, cover the stoma site with protective tape so water doesn’t get in.
  • Anyone with a stoma that is less than two months old should avoid swimming until it has fully healed.
  • Stick to clean, chlorinated, or saltwater pools and oceans. Lakes and rivers may have bacteria or pathogens that are unsafe.
  • While most swimming pools are fine, hot tubs are not recommended, as hot water can breed unhealthy bacteria. Check out the CDC’s Healthy Swimming for helpful tips for when swimming in a public pool.
  • If possible, unhook from your feeding tube while swimming and remove any extension set if needed.
  • Clamp long tubes or NG-tubes so they don’t get caught while swimming.
  • If in sand, cover the whole tube site with a protective dressing and waterproof tape. Also consider a dry suit—which can be customized to the person.
  • People with tracheotomy and laryngectomy stomas cannot swim.

While it’s always important to consult with your doctor before you begin a new activity, staying active is a key part of a healthy life.

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