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Exercise After Hernia Mesh Repair

Gentle exercise after inguinal hernia repair with mesh is good for your recovery. You can start with light activities, such as walking to promote blood circulation, the week after your surgery. Avoid strenuous tasks and lifting heavy objects for four to six weeks after surgery.

Last Modified: May 7, 2024
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How Long After a Hernia Mesh Surgery Can I Exercise?

You can begin light exercise in one to two weeks after your hernia mesh surgery but should avoid strenuous exercise and manual labor for four to six weeks. You shouldn’t undertake any intense activities or lift anything more than 10 pounds until you get clearance from your doctor. Even overdoing things in a small way may slow the healing process. As a rule of thumb, “listen” to your body after you complete any regimen of pain pills. You can ramp up your activity as your soreness improves with time.

Exercise has never been shown to lead to higher risk of recurrence,” Dr. Mazen Al-Mansour, hernia surgeon and assistant professor at the University of Florida College of Medicine, told Drugwatch. “I tell my patients that I am okay with them to start exercising immediately after surgery as long as they increase the intensity gradually and to stop if they feel pain.”

Studies that compared the effects of self-adhesive, self-gripping and suture meshes in people who had hernia repair surgery show that specific surgical techniques can determine the intensity of your pain, the length of your recovery period and how soon you can return to exercise following surgery. One study linked the use of self-gripping hernia mesh to a higher occurrence of postoperative pain during exercise, greater need for medical follow-up and a longer recovery time compared to self-adhesive mesh.

Similarly, patients with lightweight hernia mesh experienced less pain after surgery, often allowing them to resume intense activity sooner. Those who require a second hernia surgery are at a higher risk of experiencing chronic pain. They may take longer to recover and safely return to regular exercise. Other factors that affect intensity of pain after the operation include gender, age, type of hernia surgery (traditional/open vs. laparoscopic surgery vs. robotic) and preexisting pain.

Eventually, after hernia repair the goal should be to resume normal daily activities including all forms of exercises,” Al-Mansour said.

He suggests walking to start with and then gradually building up your exercise routine week by week.

Dr. Al-Mansour's Recommended Post-Surgery Exercises
  • Two to Four Weeks Post Surgery: Sit to stand, ankle pumps and glute squeezes.
  • Four to Eight Weeks Post Surgery: Straight leg raises, quadruped rocking and hook lying bent leg lifts.
  • After Eight Weeks: Bridging, curl ups and leg presses with elastic bands.

Benefits of Exercise After Hernia Mesh Repair

Gentle exercise during your hernia mesh recovery can help you recover safely and reduce pain. Getting out of bed and taking a short walk around the house can help prevent blood clots and boost blood circulation. This ensures a healthy supply of micronutrients that your body and your surgical wounds need to fight off infection.

According to one study, an inactive lifestyle following abdominal surgery can contribute to chronic postsurgical pain. Not only can the growing discomfort keep you immobile for longer than necessary, but it also may increase the need for further medical evaluation or treatment. Adopt light daily exercises to build muscle strength, endurance and overall fitness.

Your doctor will give you instructions about specific physical activities you can adopt and ones you should avoid during recovery. Adhere to the precautions your surgeon recommends and avoid straining abdominal muscles or increasing the risk of developing another hernia. Get sufficient bed rest and avoid any physical activity that hinders your recovery.

Best Types of Exercise After Hernia Mesh Repair

Gentle exercise, such as taking a walk, can help you build muscle stamina and endurance during the first 14 days following hernia surgery. Take it easy the first couple of days at home. Regular walks are the safest workouts as your pain abates.

You can start with short strolls around your bedroom or to the toilet. Increase the distance each day based on how comfortable you feel. By day five or seven, most people can walk without help. By week two, as you gain strength, try walking up and down stairs. You can also incorporate light chores, such as meal preparation, to increase your physical activity and fitness levels.

By week three, you can add abdominal exercises to your workout routine. You’ll tighten and strengthen your stomach muscles, which doctors recommend for people who had a hernia procedure. Completing abdominal exercises involving knee rolls or pelvic tilts three to five times a day can speed up your efforts to build your core strength after the surgery.

Exercises To Avoid After a Hernia Mesh Surgery

Surgeons often advise their patients to avoid any physically straining exercise for at least four weeks after abdominal surgery. While most people can’t wait to return to regular activities after hernia mesh repair, others need six weeks or more before they can endure anything strenuous in their workouts.

Avoid Heavy Lifting

You won’t be ready to lift weights and other heavy items that strain your sutures and surrounding tissues during the first four to six weeks. Anything that weighs more than 20 pounds is off-limits at this stage, and carrying something heavy can cause more problems. Lifting heavy grocery bags, carrying children and even moving a vacuum cleaner are part of a long list of things you shouldn’t do until your doctor clears you for those types of activities.

Avoid High-Impact Aerobic Exercise

The list of activities to avoid includes running and even jogging. Cycling, swimming, tennis, pickleball and golf involve applying some level of pressure on the abdomen, which may be unsafe for anybody recovering from hernia surgery. Most surgeons recommend avoiding any physical sports for four to six weeks after the operation to reduce the risk of developing hernia mesh complications.

High-impact activities to avoid or modify following hernia repair surgery include:
  • Basketball
  • Biking
  • Crunches
  • Diving
  • Golf
  • Jogging
  • Jumping jacks
  • Lifting weights
  • Pickleball
  • Pilates
  • Pull-ups
  • Riding a jet ski
  • Running
  • Sit-ups
  • Skiing (water and snow)
  • Snowboarding
  • Softball
  • Standing for too long
  • Swimming
  • Tai chi
  • Tennis
  • Yoga

As you get farther away from your surgery, you can reincorporate some of the lighter activities into your weekly routine, such as long-term standing, jogging, tai chi and moderate exercises.

You may need to wear an elastic bandage around your stomach and upper hips during recovery to protect your underlying muscle tissue. Use the binder as directed to avoid causing a hernia injury or displacing your implanted mesh. Four weeks after surgery, consult your doctor about adding more aggressive activities.

How To Exercise Safely Following Hernia Mesh Surgery

Start slowly and pay attention to your body to safely exercise after your surgery. Break down bigger tasks into easier, manageable chunks. Your goal is to avoid any hernia mesh complications.

Start with a few minutes of walking exercises, such as 10 minutes a day, and increase slowly to 30 or 40 minutes by week four or six. Gradually increase your walking distance. Your comfort (and pain) determines how far and how fast you can walk during recovery. Consider using a treadmill the first few days before you walk outside, where you may have to negotiate slopes, hills and other terrain. A walking stick can be helpful.

Instead of returning to your cycling regimen, use a stationary bike. You can increase your speed and duration as you feel better. However, watch your posture. Don’t put too much pressure on your abdomen.

Here are some tips to support a safe exercise routine and stay motivated:
  • Ask for help with difficult activities, including walking, on the first and second day.
  • Drink plenty of water and eat vegetables, fruits and high-fiber foods, such as pasta and brown rice. This should minimize constipation the pain medication causes.
  • Get plenty of rest every day.
  • Take breaks between workouts.
  • Take prescribed painkillers as directed.

Listen to your body and stop if you experience any discomfort while exercising. While most of your regular workouts may feel daunting at first, you can make them easier with a few modifications.

Please seek the advice of a medical professional before making health care decisions.