7 Best Exercises for an Umbilical Hernia

By Kara Reynolds | Jan 21, 2022

Have you recently been diagnosed with an umbilical hernia? Maybe you just had surgery to repair one and are currently recovering. Either way, the entire ordeal can be uncomfortable and downright painful. Whether you developed one after a persistent cough, weight gain or during or after pregnancy, umbilical hernias can significantly lower your wellbeing and quality of life. 

Luckily, you can alleviate symptoms and aid the healing process with a few simple exercises. If you incorporate them into your daily routine, these gentle moves can even prevent your hernia from returning. 

1. Deep Breathing 

Taking deep breaths doesn’t sound like exercise but, when you have an umbilical hernia, even shallow breathing can feel like a workout. Yes, those first few inhales are probably going to hurt, especially if you’ve had surgery to repair your hernia. However, fully inflating your lungs is key to relieving pressure and preventing further injury to your abdomen. 

Begin by lying on your back. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your belly. Inhale through your nose, allowing your stomach to slowly fill with air. You should feel your lower hand rise and fall with each round of breath. Eventually, you may even experience less pain in your diaphragm. 

2. Short Walks 

Walking is a full-body exercise that’s easy and accessible to practically everyone, even those recovering from an umbilical hernia. Keep your core strong and your stamina up by taking short walks around the block each day. Keep a brisk enough pace to get your heart pumping and boost blood flow to your abdomen to increase healing. You can even climb some stairs if you feel up to it. Take them slowly and one at a time to maintain stability and good posture. 

3. Cycling 

Many doctors will recommend cycling because it works your core muscles, including your back and abs. From maintaining proper form to keeping the bike upright, the exercise strengthens everything from your obliques to your spine. 

If you don’t have a bike or want to test your strength before taking to the streets, try leg cycles while laying on the floor. Lift your legs to your chest and work them in a pedaling motion. Hold your sides to stabilize yourself and focus on drawing your belly button up and in to engage your core.  

4. Leg Straightens

Want to add some more cardio to your recovery routine? Try leg straightens. This exercise is easier on your abdomen and won’t strain your hernia or surgery site. Simply sit at the edge of a bed or chair so your feet rest on the floor. Slowly raise one foot, straighten your leg and flex your foot until your toes point straight up. Hold for five seconds before lowering your leg and raising the other one. 

You can do this same exercise laying on the floor or even standing up if you want to begin strengthening your core, too. 

5. Pelvic Tilts

While you’re at it, add a few pelvic tilts to your regimen. Sit on a chair or the edge of your bed and tilt your pelvis like you’re about to lie down. Then, tilt your pelvis the other way and gently arch your back. Repeat this back and forth motion 10 times to stretch and strengthen your pelvic floor and abdominal muscles. You can also perform this exercise on your hands and knees by cycling through yoga poses like cat and cow. 

6. Gentle Yoga 

Speaking of yoga, many of the exercises above are similar to the poses you’d strike on a yoga mat. Boat pose, chair pose and half shoulder stand can strengthen your abdominals and alleviate pressure, too. All you have to do is roll out your mat and get moving. If you attend a class, make sure it’s a gentle flow and let the instructor know about your injury. That way they can guide you through variations that best support your health and recovery. 

7. Core Twists 

Maybe you’ve been holding in all your coughs, sneezes and laughs to protect your hernia or surgery site. In this case, your abs might be incredibly tight and sore, which is where core twists come in handy. This exercise is a more restful, restorative way to aid stiffness and improve range of motion so you can laugh, live and breathe easy again. 

Lie down on your back and place two pillows on either side of you. Draw your knees in toward your chest until they form a 90-degree angle with the floor. Then, lower them to one side until they rest atop the pillow. You may have to stack pillows to find a comfortable position. Hold for 20 seconds and repeat on the other side. 

Taking It Slow

Whether you have an umbilical hernia or are recovering post-op, it’s important to take things slow. Prioritize rest and only incorporate these exercises when you feel ready and able. Your body will heal. You just have to be patient and give it time. 

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