A hernia occurs when soft tissue -- usually part of the intestines -- protrudes through an unnatural hole in the abdominal muscles. This is called an inguinal hernia, which accounts for about 90 percent of all hernias. Dr. Edwin Flatto of the National Health Federation says that hernias are generally caused by weak abdominal muscles and are hardly, if ever, caused by heavy lifting or exercise. It's possible to exercise with a hernia, and some exercise can even help a hernia to heal without surgery. Consult with a doctor before starting an exercise regimen.
Inclined Leg Lifts
Lie on a slant board with your head lower than your feet. Start with your legs resting on the board. Slowly raise both legs about 14 inches from the board. Once in this position, spread your legs apart. Flatto recommends also trying this exercise with a partner who provides resistance with her hands while you lift your legs and spread your legs apart. The Hernia Bible recommends starting with five reps.
Inclined Cycling Exercise
Lie flat on a slant board with your head lower than your feet. Keep your hands at your sides; you can hold your sides, or you could try holding onto the slant board. Bend at the hips and raise your knees up over your body. Commence with a cycling motion using both legs. Stop the exercise as soon as you feel a burning sensation in your abs. As you regain strength in your core, you should be able to perform this exercise for progressively longer periods.
Lie with your back flat on the floor, with the bottoms of your feet touching the floor, and knees bent. Place a pillow between your knees and hold it there. Inhale. As you exhale, squeeze the pillow with your thigh muscles. Do not tilt your pelvis. The goal is to use just your thigh muscles. Start with one set of 10 reps and work your way up to three sets of 10 reps.
The key to correcting a hernia or recovering from hernia surgery is building strength in the abdominal area, and mini crunches are an ideal exercise for doing just that. With crunches, don't focus on how much you bend your torso; instead, think about how much you tighten your abdominal muscles. Mini crunches are so called because you should only bend your torso a few inches while tightening your muscles. Be mindful of how much you can handle, and don't overdo it. Start with one set of 15 reps and slowly work your way up to three sets of 15.
Doing exercises in water can add a bit of resistance. The water currents, even in a pool, make it difficult to maintain balance, which increases the load on your postural muscles. This helps even more when trying to build strength in the abdominal area, which will in turn help to heal a hernia whether you've had surgery or not. A starter exercise is simply walking forward and backward for three to five laps in the pool. Next, try 30 reps each of hip adduction, abduction, flexion and extension. Do 30 reps of partial squats -- squatting about halfway.
According to the Hernia Bible, simply walking is a great exercise for helping hernias to heal and for preventing hernias. Walking promotes the interaction of the three target areas that need strengthening: the pelvic floor, the lower abdomen and the muscles that link the abdomen to the shoulders and rib cage. Simply walking for about 45 minutes per day at a steady, brisk pace can help you achieve this goal.