What Exercises Can You Do With an Umbilical Hernia?

Experiencing an umbilical hernia can lead to much discomfort, but it shouldn't mean the end of your workout routine. That's right: you can exercise with an umbilical hernia, especially if it's light physical activity that doesn't strain your abdomen.

Exercising with an umbilical hernia is possible with the right type of workout. (Image: jacoblund/iStock/GettyImages)

For all the exercises you can do with a hernia, though, there's a list of exercises that you should steer clear of, exercises that will cause too much strain and pain. Regardless of how you choose to exercise, make sure to consult your doctor beforehand.

Tip

If you have an umbilical hernia, you can simply modify your workouts by putting less stress on your abdomen. Biking, swimming, walking and gentle yoga are great options.

What Is an Umbilical Hernia?

An umbilical hernia happens when a portion of the intestine protrudes through the opening in the abdominal muscles. It's located in the area where the umbilical cord passes through while in utero. Umbilical hernias are generally harmless, but in some serious cases, they may require surgery.

Twenty percent of babies are born with umbilical hernias, though they occur in adults as well for several reasons such as prolonged constipation or obesity. Some women may even experience a postpartum umbilical hernia from too much straining during childbirth.

Exercising with an Umbilical Hernia

According to an article by AFAA-certified trainer Kaye Kennedy, exercising with a hernia is possible and may even ease symptoms. That said, exercise is generally only a temporary solution and some umbilical hernia cases require surgical intervention.

For hernia patients who are overweight, exercise may be a viable option, as physical activity can help reduce belly fat and burn calories. If you decide to exercise with an umbilical hernia, it's best to talk to your doctor first to avoid being injured or exacerbating the situation.

If you have an umbilical hernia, you may need to modify your workout by reducing intensity or duration and putting less stress on your abdomen. Exercise options include: spinning or outdoor biking, swimming or water exercise, and walking. Walking is low impact and won't strain the abs. It may also help to implement a gentle yoga routine and practice deep abdominal breathing.

Exercises to Avoid

If you're suffering from an umbilical hernia, it's best to avoid any physical activity that requires lifting a large amount of weight. Straining can increase intra-abdominal pressure and worsen a hernia. Weightlifting with an umbilical hernia, for instance, should be avoided.

Any activities that require high-intensity pushing, pulling, kicking or punching should also be avoided. Sports that require high-impact movement, like football, rugby, wrestling or soccer, may also put you at risk.

Post-Surgery Exercise

If you decide to treat your hernia with surgery, allow yourself three weeks of recovery time, during which you may perform light activity. After six weeks, you can resume strenuous exercise. Just be sure to increase the amount and intensity of exercise little by little, and if you're experiencing any discomfort, take a break. It's important to make core strengthening a priority during post-surgery workouts.

Core exercise recommendations include crunches and planks. Always make sure to consult with your doctor before beginning an exercise routine to help ease umbilical hernia symptoms.

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