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Exercise and Inguinal Hernias

author image Karen Hellesvig-Gaskell
Karen Hellesvig-Gaskell is a broadcast journalist who began writing professionally in 1980. Her writing focuses on parenting and health, and has appeared in “Spirituality & Health Magazine" and “Essential Wellness.” Hellesvig-Gaskell has worked with autistic children at the Fraser School in Minneapolis and as a child care assistant for toddlers and preschoolers at the International School of Minnesota, Eden Prairie.
Exercise and Inguinal Hernias
Hernias occur in the lower abdomen. Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images

Hernias are a common affliction that can occur in men, women and children. More than 70 percent of all hernias are called inguinal hernias. Inguinal hernias cause the intestines to bulge through an opening near the groin, according to Teens Health. Muscle weakness and straining due to heavy lifting or constipation can cause a hernia. Certain exercises are discouraged when you have an inguinal hernia.


An inguinal hernia occurs when part of the small intestine or small bowel protrudes through a weak area of muscle in the lower abdomen. Weight gain and chronic coughing can sometimes cause a hernia to develop. An inguinal hernia can occur at any age and is far more common in males, according to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearninghouse, or NDDIC. Inguinal hernias typically grow larger over time.


Contrary to widespread belief, physical strain or overexertion does not appear to cause the majority of hernias. Inguinal hernia sufferers report a physically strenuous activity right before diagnosis less than 10 percent of the time, says Robert H. Shmerling, M.D., of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. However, physical exertion is more common in workmen's compensation cases involving hernias. Wearing a truss or supportive device during exercise or at other times won't guard against possible complications from an inguinal hernia such as pain, swelling and enlargement, though your doctor may advise you to wear one for a brief time before corrective surgery.

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Exercises that involve heavy lifting, sudden twists or pulls may worsen a hernia and cause discomfort, according to the NDDIC. Weightlifting and other strenuous activities can increase abdominal pressure and possibly enlarge a small muscle tear. If lifting a heavy object is unavoidable, bend from your knees rather than your waist.


Aerobic exercises that don't involve straining such as swimming or bicycling are generally recommended when you have a hernia. Water pressure and static cycling on a stationary exercise bike can help control any type of hernia, according to NetDoctor.


Regular exercise can strengthen abdominal muscles and possibly prevent a hernia. Not lifting heavy objects or straining during bowel movements can help lower your risk of inguinal hernia. If you've never had a hernia and are concerned you could develop one from lifting, there's little cause for alarm. However If you have a hernia, it's probably best to avoid exercise that involves lifting anything heavy. Contact your doctor if you find a lump or feel tenderness or heaviness in the groin area, says the Mayo Clinic. An inguinal hernia won't disappear on its own and surgical repair is usually necessary.

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