Exercise can also help with constipation – be as active as you can be, but do not exceed your physical abilities. Walking 15-20 minutes once or twice a day or 30-60 minutes daily or 3 to 5 times per week is typically recommended. If you are unable to walk or are restricted to bed, exercises such as pelvic tilt, trunk rotation and single leg lifts are recommended.

For incontinence, some people find Kegel exercises, designed to strengthen your pelvic muscles, and bladder training, which encourages people to extend the time between urination, helpful in controlling urinary incontinence. However, these are specific exercises and programs and you should ask your doctor, oncologist, physiotherapist or nurse if these are right for you.

Toileting and Privacy

If there is a time you usually feel like going to the toilet, try to be in a place where you can relax at that time each day. For people restricted to using bed pans or needing help to go to the toilet, embarrassment may cause constipation. It helps to create an environment that is as private and relaxed as possible.

A squat position can facilitate the defecation process. If you are unable to use the toilet (eg. bed-bound), the squat position can be stimulated by lying on the side and bending the knees and moving the legs toward the abdomen.

The Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing provides a National Public Toilet Map as part of its National Continence Management Strategy. This may be useful when planning excursions.

Diarrhoea also comes with its share of embarrassment, of course, and it can make it easier if those around you understand that you may have urgent needs and can be discreet about helping you. This could mean identifying the nearest toilets and helping you get to them quickly. Try to make sure that some sort of toilet facility is always in reach. Carry damp wipes and a change of clothes if you are out.

For more information

  • More information about Kegel Exercises and other strategies to maintain bladder and bowel health can be found on the Continence Foundation of Australia website
  • You can also call the National Continence Helpline 1800 33 00 66 (free call) for information and advice from continence nurse advisors
  • Talk to your Doctor or nurse regarding a referral to a continence clinic or call the National Continence Helpline 1800 33 00 66 (free call) 
  • to know which continence services are closest to you
  • The Continence Foundation of Australia also offers information about funding schemes to help you pay for continence products (eg. pads) call the National Continence Helpline 1800 33 00 66 (free call)  for more information.

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Life, Hope & Reality was developed and written by Afaf Girgis, Claire Johnson, and Sylvie Lambert with funding from the NHMRC and Cancer Council NSW.

Last updated 30 August 2015