Can You Run With An Abdominal Hernia?

Morning exercise along the river. Young woman with abdominal pain after sitting on the steps of recreational running

Having an abdominal hernia can be scary, and in some cases, can become a real pain. That’s why the condition can severely limit your running routine, even if it isn’t painful.

So you should keep running with an abdominal hernia? Or should you stop until you fully heal? That’s where this post comes in handy.

In today’s article, I’ll delve a little bit into the infamous condition known as abdominal hernia, discuss whether it’s safe to keep running with and how to do it the right way.

Sounds great?

Let’s get started.

What Is Abdominal Hernia?

First things first, what is a hernia, and how it can affect your fitness and overall health.

An abdominal hernia occurs when an internal organ with hollow openings, usually the bladder or intestine, bulges through a weakened section of the abdominal wall, which often results in a lump or bulge.

Most cases of abdominal hernias are either inguinal, occurring in the lower abdominal groin area, or femoral hernias, occurring in the groin area near the femoral canal.

Other types of hernias include Hiatal hernias, which strike in the upper abdomen, as well as umbilical hernias that occur in the belly button.

Whichever the case, hernias can be a real pain, especially if it’s been neglected for a while and/or you like to run hard every day.

How To Treat Abdominal Hernias

In most cases, persistent hernias required surgical repair.

Ignoring an abdominal hernia can result in strangulation—a process in which the intestines become trapped. This hinders—even cuts—circulation to the tissue, resulting in a life-threatening situation.

Red flags of a strangulated hernia include:

  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Trapped gas
  • Chronic pain
  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Skin darkening

Can you Run With an Abdominal Hernia?

Chances are, this is the reason that brought you here.

So you can really run when you have a hernia?

The answer is not that simple.

You might or might not be able to run with a hernia, depending on the severity of your condition and the intensity of your training.

But all in all, you can keep running if you have a hernia—as long as you can do it “relatively” pain-free or with minimal symptoms.

In fact, running at low intensity is often recommend for hernia patients. Running can also help you lose weight which may improve symptoms.

Just keep in mind that the intensity of your runs matters. For example, if you’re coming down with acid reflux symptoms caused by a hernia, running long or hard may make your pain worse.

Intense Training And Hernia

The intensity of your runs matters as strenuous training can make a hernia worse.

Any type of movement that puts pressure on your abdominal region can aggravate the condition.

Sure, running is mainly a lower-body activity, but you also use your core when logging the miles.

Don’t take my word for it.

Research published in PLOS One looked into the impact of three months of Pilates training in 28 subjects –core strengthening—on 5K running performance.

The research reported a significant activation of the core muscles, especially the obliques, during running.

What’s more?

Abdominal muscles engagement increases in proportion to running pace. So the faster you run, the more you engage your core muscles.

And thanks to this, running—especially doing speedwork—with a hernia may worsen your symptoms by increasing abdominal muscle contraction.

So what should you do?

All in all, if the bulge isn’t painful or inflamed, you’re at minimal risk if you continue running. When it’s the case, feel free to keep logging the miles—preferably with your doctor’s permission.

However, if the hernia strangulates, which cuts blood flow to the bowel tissue, then your condition becomes a medical emergency.

A strangulated hernia is really painful, and you’ll experience all sorts of symptoms beforehand, such as vomiting, bowel obstruction, etc. This can make any sane person seek medical help ASAP.

female runner GI Distress When Running

How To Manage A Hernia While Running

The best way to return to running after a hernia is to do so gradually.

Adopt a beginner mindset.

Here’s how.

Walk first – before you pick up the pace, work up to walking three to five miles per hour without pain.

Be patient and increase your mileage and endurance slowly to help avoid post-surgery complications.

Do Some Plyometric

Plyometrics, a form of high-impact, explosive exercise, may help get your body ready for the stress of the miles.

Try the following routine. Perform each move for 30 seconds, then rest for one minute. Repeat three times.

  • Hop in place
  • Hop side to side on two feet
  • Hop forward/backward on two feet
  • Single leg broad jump
  • Squat jumps
  • Burpees

Walk Run

The next step is to introduce some running into your walks. You can do this by following the famous walk/run method, in which you alternate intervals of walking and jogging for a specific amount of time.

You should be able to complete these exercises without pain before you start adding more running. You should also be able to touch your abdominal area without experiencing any tenderness or pain.