Does Exercise Aggravate a Hiatal Hernia?

Make sure to choose the correct exercises to prevent yourself from aggravating a hiatal hernia.
Image Credit: Martin Novak/Moment/GettyImages

A hiatal hernia occurs when a portion of your stomach pushes up through your diaphragm's small opening, the hiatus, which is responsible for allowing the esophagus to pass through to the stomach. When a hiatal hernia occurs, it cannot close properly and stomach acid travels back to the esophagus.



Choosing the wrong types of exercise can make symptoms of hiatal hernia worse.

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This causes heartburn, inflammation, ulcers in the esophagus and stomach spasms. Exercising with hiatal hernia can be both beneficial and detrimental, depending on your activity choice. Be sure to check with your doctor before starting any new exercise program.

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Exercising With Hiatal Hernia

According to Mayo Clinic, most people don't know they have a hiatal hernia unless symptoms like heartburn are present. Exercise can be used to treat hiatal hernia symptoms, along with other methods like medication and surgery in extreme cases.


Exercises to strengthen the abdominal muscles and the diaphragm can help soothe hiatal hernia symptoms and assist in preventing future reoccurrences. Additionally, cardio exercises like walking can burn calories and help you lose excess weight, another potential cause of hiatal hernias.

Read more: Exercising With a Hernia

Strengthen Abdominal Muscles

Weak abdominal muscles can also contribute to the development of hiatal hernias. The pelvic thrust is a simple and safe abdominal exercise to strengthen abdominal muscles. As strength improves, try this exercise with a barbell for resistance.


  1. Lie on your back on the floor with your knees slightly bent and your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Press your feet into the floor and lift your lower back and bottom upwards while you keep your upper back and shoulders pressed against the floor.
  3. Pause at the top of the movement, then slowly lower to the starting position.
  4. Do 15 to 20 repetitions.

Try Breathing Exercise

Breathing exercises can be used to strengthen the diaphragm, which may prevent further hiatal hernia re-occurrences and be used for relaxation. Deep breathing exercises can also aid in relieving symptoms that might stem from physical or emotional stress.


  1. Lay flat on a floor on your back.
  2. Take a deep breath so that your lungs are full and your chest has expanded.
  3. Tighten your abdominal muscles and then blow out the air though your mouth, making sure your lips are slightly opened so that you have to force the air out as you blow.


Taking deep breaths and blowing out slowly — as if you are blowing out candles — can also improve the delivery of oxygen to your lungs in addition to strengthening your diaphragm and relaxing the body.


Read more: Hernia Abdominal Exercises

Exercise With Caution

Though exercising with hiatal hernia can be helpful, some activities can worsen the condition. Use caution with exercises that place pressure on the upper abdomen or when performing high intensity activities.


According to the University of Wisconsin Integrative Medicine, activities such as running, weight lifting and sometimes cycling can increase side effects of hiatal hernia. In severe cases, individuals may need surgery to treat a hiatal hernia, according to Cleveland Clinic.




Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.

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