Dear Lifehacker, A few weeks ago I noticed a lump just above my belly button area which was about the size of a large marble. I got an ultrasound and was diagnosed with an umbilical hernia. Eight months before this, I joined a gym and have noticed great results. Every single person tells me NOT to do any weight lifting and only to stick to cardio. Which sucks.
I'm really scared now that since I'm unable to do any weights until I recover fully, that all my hard work at the gym is going to go to waste. Are there any muscle exercises that I can do while I'm waiting to have this hernia removed? Or is it best for my health that I just stick with cardio? Thanks, Gym Lover
Workout picture from Shutterstock
There are plenty of people on weight-lifting forums who insist it's fine to keep lifting with an umbilical hernia. However, there are just as many people who describe non-taxing sets that ended in horrific agony.
A ruptured hernia is one of the most painful injuries you can suffer from. It can also require emergency surgery which may put you out of action for even longer. You have to ask yourself whether the risk is worth it. Personally, we think your health is more important than maintaining an aesthetically pleasing physique.
You should also be aware that muscle atrophy is a slow process — you're not going to suddenly wake up with skinny arms just because you stopped lifting. Your muscles may begin to shrink after a fortnight or so, but the change won't be drastic. Provided you maintain healthy eating habits and do regular cardio workouts, your body will remain relatively fit and muscular.
There are a few exercises you can do beyond cardio that will help you to maintain a strong core. For example, planks are a low-stress method of strengthening your abdominal wall without squatting, bending or lifting weights — in addition to being safer, they may even cause the hernia to go back in. Weight machines are considered preferable to free weights, as you can isolate body parts without putting stress on the affected area. You can also purchase abdominal hernia belts that attempt to keep the hernia in place during exercise.
Naturally, you should discuss these options thoroughly with your GP before you attempt them. Incidentally, the biggest battle when it comes to weight training is perseverance: you seem to have this sorted, so rebuilding muscle mass won't be a problem. Good luck!
Have a question you want to put to Ask Lifehacker? Send it using our contact form.