Exercises After Abdominal Surgery

Exercise is an important component of recovering after abdominal surgery because failing to exercise could cause a hernia. The muscles of the abdomen weaken because the incision goes through muscle and fascia, which is connective tissue. This will also negatively affect your posture and balance. There are exercises you can do soon after surgery and ones that you may have to wait a couple of weeks to do. Your doctor will make the final call on what you are ready for and when.

Ankle Pumps

Ankle pumps are simply moving your ankle up and down. You should do this every two hours while you are lying in bed during recovery to get circulation into your ankles and feet. To do ankle pumps, plantarflex one foot as if pressing down on a gas pedal. Then, dorsiflex your feet by pulling your toes up toward your shins as if letting off the gas. Repeat with the other foot and alternate sides.


Walking short distances after abdominal surgery helps increase blood flow. Take short walks a few times a day with assistance from a nurse or helper. Do not try to go very far or move quickly.

Buttocks Lift

The buttocks lift is an easy core exercise for the glutes and lower back. Keep your abs squeezed tightly during the buttocks lift exercise to also work the abs. To perform the buttocks lift, lie face up on the floor or bed with your head resting on a pillow. Relax your arms next to your sides, palms down. Bring your feet to about eight to 12 inches from your buttocks so your knees are bent to slightly less than 90 degrees. Your feet are parallel to each other and pointing straight ahead. Then, squeeze your glutes as if you had a quarter between your cheeks and raise your buttocks in the air. Go only as high as feels comfortable and no higher than the distance that puts your body in a line from knees to shoulders. Lower your buttocks slowly back down.

Head Lift

The head lift is an exercise for the abs that you can do about 10 to 14 days after surgery. You may do one of several variations.

Option one is to lie face up on the floor or your bed and bend your knees, placing your feet about eight inches from your buttocks. Put your hands behind your head with the elbows bent. Then, press your lower back into the floor and hold the abs tight. Bring your chin toward your chest without letting your lower back pop up. Breathe out as you do so. Lower your head.

Option two begins exactly like option one, but when you exhale and raise your head, follow with your shoulders until both are off the floor. Be sure to keep the lower back flat.

Option three is to lie your knees on the floor, first on your right and then the left sides while you lift your head and shoulders. This emphasizes the oblique muscles on the sides of the abdomen.

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