Exercises for Abdomen: Strengthening Tips without Hernia Risk?

Great White North
Jan 11, 2018 4:31 pm

Can anyone recommend any tips or exercises for strengthening the abdomen without increasing the risk of developing a hernia? I have a permanent ileostomy (surgery in 2015) and would like to do what I can to strengthen my core. I'm a bigger guy who could stand to lose a few pounds. My activities have pretty much been limited to walking as much as I can and yard work around the house. I am nervous about overdoing it with weights... I want to try to prevent getting a hernia. Any info or tips would be appreciated!

This is my first post, by the way. I must say this is a great community... I have learned a lot reading about other members' experiences. You all are a selfless bunch, and your words have helped me more than you will ever know!

Jan 12, 2018 7:00 am

Hello Great White North.

Over two years should be enough time for the opersation damage to have healed. I you intend doing more strenous exercise it would pay to be very careful and approach it as you would advise a child. i.e. increasing a little bit at a time, regularly and stop as soon as you are feeling the strain. It's what I call JND. -- Just Noticeable Difference. I also use a hernia belt all the time and when I'm goiing to do more strnous activity, I put a more robust belt over the one I use for normal wear. Weightlifters and the like use them all the time and they don't have hernias! so there must be a good reason for wearing them. 

Best wishes


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Great White North
Jan 12, 2018 3:52 pm

Thanks for the advice, Bill. I just got fitted for a hernia belt this past week. More from a preventative standpoint to better my odds of not getting a hernia.

Newbie Dana
Jan 16, 2018 12:16 am

Use the belt when exercising and do not lift weights. My doctor told me that, and I didn't listen. Guess what? Yeah, you know what happened. My hernia is a beauty - makes me look about 3 or 4 months pregnant. Joy.

Talk to your doctor and get specific advice from him on what you can and can't do, and how much. And then do what I didn't, and listen to him. Sigh. If I could only go back in time ...

Jan 16, 2018 2:26 am

I did some research on just this subject. Sit-ups, crunches, and weight lifting are probably off the menu. Although there are ostomates that lift weights, I wouldn't suggest it. My research also showed me that those "leg push" machines at the gym are probably not a good idea either. The best exercise for ostomates, of course, is just plain walking --- but that doesn't help the saggy abdominal muscles. For that, planks are the best. Start slow and add a few seconds every time you do them.

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Jan 16, 2018 9:00 am

The safest option is swimming, the hardest thing is finding something suitable to wear. Good luck!

Snookis Mum
Jan 18, 2018 10:17 pm


I find that the best exercise to strengthen your core is the plank. You just get into the position and stay there, so there is no movement which might cause a hernia. It is remarkably effective. I have had no problem at all with it.

Good luck.


Winnie The Pooh
Jan 19, 2018 5:26 pm

I read an interesting article a few weeks ago (which of course I can't find right now!) on the subject of exercises for women with "baby bumps". It seemed to me that it might apply to our situation.

It's the bump most women have for a while (or longer...) after giving birth. The article talked about how harsh exercise regimes like stomach crunches etc. were NOT recommended. Now I'm just trying to recall the details but AFAIK the problem is that you have 2 types of muscles down there - the horizontal ones (abs, maybe?) and vertical ones (um, dunno) and I think the vertical ones are the ones they put the hole through for the stoma. It's the vertical ones you want to strengthen. In fact, strengthening the horizontal ones can cause them to push out, i.e. increase the hernia.

My guess is that it will be gentle exercises like Pilates, swimming, not sure if planking is ok.

Please be aware this is all from memory - I may be talking through my... Well, I would be if I still had one LOL!

Google "exercise baby bump" - there's a name for these exercises but I can't find it right now.

I'm still in touch with my stoma nurses at the hospital - I'll call them and see if they know.


Jan 19, 2018 8:08 pm
Hi, my name is Marsha, and I've had my ileostomy for more than 50 years...since I was 15. After 3 major surgeries, a year in a back brace, and then later 2 pregnancies, and a significant weight gain, my abdominal muscles were shot. I have a major stomach hernia, the length of my scar, but it's on the opposite side from the stoma. One doctor said no serious exercise, another said to wear a support, another said no issue with exercise, go for it. Didn't know what to do. So I went to the local gym, told my story, got a good trainer, and worked on building core strength. Also had an ultrasound done on my lower abs, and we were "stunned" to see how atrophied they were. I have to do a lot of compensation, but it didn't stop me from getting into better shape. I didn't do heavy weights, but went from 2 to 5 to 8 lb. Some of the machines are excellent, while others are to be avoided. Did Pilates (great) and tai chi, great for balance and control. Did a lot of work on 'Pull down weights, standing on one foot, for balance, and for core. You can read about the exercises, but it really helped to have a trained coach. I also spent some time in physical therapy/doctor prescribed, to work on specific issues... After all that effort (about 5 years ago), I had some new medical issues, and now I'm back to starting over again. It's a challenge. I hope this helped. Marsha
Jan 28, 2018 4:16 am

Here is a site with some abdominal muscle exercises for those of us with a stoma- https://www.stomaatje.com/belly_exercise.html

This one looks pretty good too and it has a video too, https://www.livestrong.com/article/333243-what-exercises-can-a-person-with-a-colostomy-do/