SARASOTA – As a personal trainer who spends his entire week in the gym, David Greene might be one of the healthiest 50-year-old’s you’ll ever meet. But last year he felt something in his stomach and doubled over in pain.

“It became so bad I had to go to the hospital, had to go to the emergency room. They did a CT scan on me and said, ‘We have to do emergency exploratory surgery. You’ve got a perforated colon, and we got to go in and find the hole and repair it.’”

Greene was diagnosed with diverticulitis, a painful condition where infected or inflamed pockets form in the colon. Like many Americans, Greene had been dealing with some stomach pain for years but dismissed it as normal.

“I couldn’t have imagined it could turn into something so severe. You know what I thought was just a regular stomachache a couple of times a month literally became life-threatening.”

So Greene underwent surgery, which meant he had to stay out of the gym for a while. But recovering from surgery doesn’t mean you have to stop working out completely. Here are some workouts you can try while recovering from abdominal surgery:

  1. Ankle pumps… in other words, moving your ankles up and down. You can easily do this while resting in bed.This gets the circulation running to your feet.
  2. Once you’re able to get out of bed, walking short distances helps increase blood flow. Walk with a nurse or helper if you have to. Don’t move too quickly or walk too far.
  3. Another exercise you can do lying down is the buttocks lift, a core exercise for the glutes and lower back. Life face down in bed. Bend your knees slightly less than 90 degrees and squeeze your glutes. Then continuously raise and lower your buttocks.
  4. The last exercise is the head lift. This ab exercise is best done about ten to 14 days after surgery, not right away. Lie face up with bent knees. Place your hands behind your heads and press your lower back to the ground. Hold your abs tight and bring your chin toward your chest while keeping your back flat against the ground. Lower your head and repeat.

We suggest talking to your doctor about when best to begin these exercises. Everyone is different.

They may not be the exercises you’re used to doing in the gym, but they’re an easy and safe alternative while your body heals and like Greene, you can get back to the gym in no time.