Top Exercises for Umbilical Hernia

Medically Reviewed by Minesh Khatri, MD on November 27, 2022
3 min read

An umbilical hernia is a condition where your internal organs bulge through a gap in your abdominal wall near your belly button. This condition can have both aesthetic and health consequences. In many children, umbilical hernias can often be resolved with simple exercises instead of surgery. For adults, however, surgery is often required, and gentle exercise helps during recovery.

Umbilical hernias in adults are generally caused by high amounts of pressure in the abdomen. Things like straining during a workout, pregnancy, and weight gain can all lead to umbilical hernias. Whether or not surgery is used to correct the umbilical hernia, gentle exercise can help prevent the hernia from coming back.

Recovering from a hernia involves taking it slow for a few weeks. Your body needs to heal, whether you had surgery or not. Exercises to help recovery focus on strengthening the muscles of your abdominal wall and keep your lungs and intestines working efficiently as you recover. Avoid heavy lifting.

Deep Breathing

Since umbilical hernias are found in the stomach, it can be tempting to take shallow breaths to avoid aggravating it. This is even more true if you’ve had surgery to repair an umbilical hernia. However, shallow breathing can keep you from fully inflating your lungs, and may even lead to lung infections.

Deep breathing helps avoid these problems. You don’t need to make every breath a deep inhalation. However, taking deep, full breaths several times a day can help keep mucus out of your lungs. You can also cough carefully while holding a pillow over your abdomen to help support the hernia.

Gentle Walks

After any kind of hernia, walking can help keep your muscles strong and help reduce your risk of complications. This is especially true of surgeries on your abdomen. Walking helps your organs return to their proper place. It also gets your heart pumping, bringing blood to your surgery site, which helps your body heal. Walk slowly, and don’t hesitate to sit down if you feel unstable. You can also climb stairs, taking them slowly and one at a time.

Leg Straightens

If you feel uncomfortable walking or want to do additional cardio exercise, you can do simple leg movements that don’t strain your abdomen. Leg straightens are an easy way to do this in your bed or a chair.

Step 1: Sit at the edge of your bed or on a chair where your feet can easily rest on the floor.

Step 2: Slowly raise one foot from the floor until it’s straight in front of you. Hold this position for 5 seconds, then lower it to the floor.

Step 3: Repeat with the other leg.

You can do this up to 10 times. Make sure you’re only feeling muscles in your legs working, not in your abdomen. 

Core Twists

This exercise helps strengthen your core and helps keep your torso flexible. This should help aid stiffness during surgery recovery.

Step 1: Lie flat on your back and extend your arms straight out to either side, so you’re shaped like a plus sign. 

Step 2: Slide your feet up toward your body until your knees are bent at a 90-degree angle. 

Step 3: Lower your knees to the left as far as is comfortable. Keep your upper body still, and hold the stretch for 20 seconds.

Step 4: Repeat on the other side. 

Repeat the entire stretch 3 to 4 times a day. 

Pelvic Tilts

This exercise helps strengthen your abdominal muscles without the risk of putting pressure on the inside of your hernia.

Step 1: Sit on the edge of a chair or your bed.

Step 2: Tilt your pelvis backward like you’re about to lie down.

Step 3: Then tilt your pelvis forward, arching your lower back. 

Step 4: Repeat this back and forth rocking motion 10 times. 

Do a set of these 10 repetitions 3 or 4 times a day. 

While an umbilical hernia may not be dangerous, adults should still talk to their doctor if they notice one developing. A developing umbilical hernia just looks like a lump, and any new lumps may be a symptom of something more serious. That’s why it’s important to get them checked out by a medical professional.

If a hernia becomes painful, starts turning colors, or feels firm, you should also talk to your doctor immediately. This may be a sign of an intestinal twist or blockage that can cause serious health problems.