Choosing the Right Exercise for Hiatus Hernia

Updated on August 6, 2017

When I was diagnosed with a hiatus hernia, I’d been training for a half-marathon. It was mentioned that my over-training may have been the cause of the hernia. I love running and I love to keep fit, but I got scared that running would make the hernia worse. After speaking with the specialist, I was told to take my medication two hours before I ran. He said that the only thing that could be affecting my running was the heartburn—that the sharp pain I was feeling in the middle of my chest was from reflux.

So would running be a good exercise when you have a hiatus hernia?

It all depends on the individual. Personally I would say running would be ok if you’re not going to overdo it. Over exertion, training too hard might worsen the situation. Taking it easy and going for an easy run shouldn’t cause much harm, I don’t think, as I’ve done it. I’m not a Doctor and can only share what I was told and what I’ve done. Everyone is different.

When I found that running wasn’t always a good idea but still wanted to exercise I began to try a few different exercises to find out which ones would work the best for me.


Spinning is an exercise done on a stationary bike to very loud music. I’m a bit of an adrenaline junkie so spinning was great. I didn’t experience any reflux, got a good workout, and felt great. Most of the strain was felt in the thighs and even though there was a lot of standing and sitting moves it didn’t interfere with the hernia. Spinning seems okay for hiatus hernia.


Weight lifting is not a very good exercise when you have a hiatus hernia. In fact it could be the cause of one or it could make an existing hernia worse. It’s all trial and error but you have to be extremely careful. The only weight lifting I do is strengthening my legs on the leg curl and extensions. I have also done light free weights for strength rather than for growth. It’s best to stay with light weights.

Tai chi

This one, I would recommend. The best I can describe Tai Chi is a moving form of Yoga and meditation. The only annoying thing was learning the moves. It’s a great exercise that targets most of your muscles gently and without strain. It calms the mind and gives a sense of inner peace. Tai chi for beginners is a lot easier and is a good exercise for hiatus hernia. I did Tai Chi once a week with a qualified instructor and also bought A beginners Tai Chi DVD to do some very basic Tai Chi exercises at home. This works wonderfully for me at the moment.


Pilates is great if you are fairly flexible and strong. I did find it a little bit difficult as this is an exercise which develops stomach muscles. Also some of the poses were a little bit uncomfortable in the stomach area. Pain or discomfort is something you should always heed. So I stopped Pilates after only two sessions. If you do choose to do Pilates always inform your instructor that you have a hiatus hernia as some positions are not suitable.


This wasn’t for me either. Yoga is the practice of physical postures or poses it is also a meditative exercise. To be honest this form of exercise made me extremely nauseous afterwards. The first time I thought it was because I didn’t have enough water before the session but I discovered that the constant bending with my head towards the ground was making me feel ill and I suffered reflux. It really is up to an individual and if you do choose this exercise it is important to inform your instructor of your condition as some of the poses will not be suitable.


I love swimming. This exercise has no strain on any parts of your body whatsoever. You can have a full body workout without affecting your hernia. It is now my number one exercise and has taken the place of running, not only for health reasons but also because it’s a great way to exercise with my daughter and spend quality time with her.

Whichever exercise you choose make sure it suits you and makes you comfortable. Always consult your doctor before starting any new exercise.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


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    • profile image

      Joanna Aldridge 

      22 months ago

      Would you recommend kickboxing as i also have a Hietus Hernia and on meds.

      I also have pt once a week....

    • lin8t profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from United Kingdom

      @herniahell, I think you have to experiment with different types of excersises. When I found out I had a hernia and nothing serious it got better. I realised a lot of my reflux came from stress rather than excersise. I also have learnt to manage it well and have stopped taking the medication as I don't need it. Before excersise I try not to be full but also not hungry. I also try not to do excersises that has a lot of jumping about movement. Taking it easy helps, swimming is great because you don't have to over do it. When you're anxious you will reflux more rather than the excersise causing the reflux. Hope this helps.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I was diagnosed with a hiatal hernia . I quit smoking 9 months ago and do to changes in diet gained 30 pounds. My acid reflux sometimes then skyrocketed and I thought I was having a heart attack. Tightness in my chest also severe shortness of breath with the weight gain and my symptoms of severe anxiety you can imagine how I feel. My doctor said I should try to lose some weight so I started working out. I noticed however that that made more problems my chest to be tight my stomach was hurting after workout. The doctor did a chest xray and abdominal xray. Both came up negative.. the hernia is not large enough for surgery according to my doctor. My question is when I workout my symptoms increase which increases my anxiety. So I was wondering how I can exercise and see results without havinga pain in my abominal area after exercise.

    • lin8t profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from United Kingdom

      @thesingernurse thank you for your comment. I am happy to be able to help or at least guide others. :-)

    • thesingernurse profile image

      Tina Siuagan 

      8 years ago from Rizal, Philippines

      It's great to know that someone with such condition is willing to educate his fellow hubbers and the general audience who might actually be having some troubles dealing with it and their exercise. Useful hub! Voted up! :)


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