Can I exercise when I have a hernia?

Published: Thursday, December 2, 2021

Do you suspect you have a hernia and wonder if it is safe to exercise?

Although it is possible to safely exercise with a hernia, you are at risk for making the hernia worse. To be safe, we recommend you first schedule a consultation with an experienced hernia doctor to assess the severity of your hernia. Not only can they help you determine best treatment options, but a hernia specialist can also advise you on how to exercise safely both before and after treatment.

Since a hernia cannot heal itself and will almost always require surgery, it is important not to delay treatment. Early intervention will prevent your symptoms from getting worse, making hernia surgery easier and allowing you to get back to all the activities you enjoy.

How to exercise safely

Once you’ve discussed your treatment plan with your doctor and have been given clearance to exercise, you’ll want to follow some general guidelines for exercising safely. Here are a few tips:

1) Focus on your breathing.

Don’t hold your breath while exercising; breathe out when you are exerting yourself and breathe in as you relax. You can decrease the pressure in your abdomen and reduce the instinct to strain by concentrating on your breathing during exercise.

2) Wear protective undergarments.

Protective underwear similar to compression shorts can help support your abdomen and groin and lessen any unnecessary exertion while exercising.

3) Continue light exercise.

Because obesity is a risk factor for hernias, we do recommend you continue light exercise, unless prohibited by your doctor. 

The best exercises for people with hernias

If your hernia doctor says it’s safe for you to exercise, you should stick to low-impact activities that won’t exacerbate your hernia symptoms or strain the area where your hernia is located. Here are a few activities to help support a healthy lifestyle while avoiding making your hernia worse:

  • Swimming
  • Walking
  • Light jogging
  • Gentle yoga
  • Cycling

Exercises to avoid when you have a hernia

When you have a hernia, you should avoid certain exercises and activities:

  • Avoid heavy exertion exercises, such as weightlifting, that cause you to strain.
  • Do not over stretch your abdominal wall. Movements that lengthen the abdominal muscles, such as an upward dog position in yoga, put strain on the muscle walls and should be avoided.
  • Avoid core exercises such as planks, sit-ups, crunches and some Pilates exercises.
  • Stay away from high impact physical activities or contact sports.

About the Hernia Center of NGMC

At the Hernia Center of NGMC, our hernia surgeons specialize in hernia repair. Each surgeon performs between 15 to 30 hernia surgeries a month. This means that by choosing the Hernia Center of NGMC, you will see a hernia doctor who is highly experienced and will provide the highest quality hernia repair and surgical care possible. In fact, our hernia surgeons at the Hernia Center have been recognized by Surgical Review Corporation for their quality outcomes and expertise.