Exercise after Plastic Surgery? Sure, why not?

When and how much exercise after Plastic Surgery

There is a lot of discussion about if you should exercise after Plastic Surgery and when and what kinds of exercises are acceptable. In this article, we’ll look at some of the background information and then dive into a few procedures and exercises that can work well following each of them.

After your plastic surgery, do you want to stay cooped up at home?

No, of course not.

You didn’t put in the time, cost and energy to get the Plastic Surgery procedure so you can be cooped up at home. Rather, you want to get back to your life and maybe even push some new frontiers of health and fitness. A particularly popular topic is how long after Plastic Surgery should one wait to get back into their exercise routine (or start a new one).

  • A couple of important caveats here:
    • Disregard anything below that conflicts with what your surgeon tells you. This article is general information and your surgeon will most assuredly have instructions that conflict with some of it. You took the time to find the best surgeon, so now you should follow your surgeon’s instructions to the letter.
    • Everybody heals differently so the timeframes below are very generalized. As with everything else, follow the direction of your surgeon.

As a general rule of thumb, patients should remain as inactive as possible for about 48 hours following any type of plastic surgery. After that, for the next 1 to 2 weeks, you must proceed very carefully regardless of the procedure you had. Your surgeon will probably recommend either no activity/exercise at all or you might get the go-ahead to do some very light activity such as walking around the neighborhood or walking very slowing on a treadmill. Depending on how well you’re healing, a “light duty” routine can be undertaken so long as care is given with regards to things like heavy lifting or extreme exertion. Depending on the type of surgery, it may be a week or two before you have the energy to re-engage in any kind of exercise regimen. The initial efforts here should be around enjoying the psychological benefits of exercise rather than the physical – think more along the lines of feeling good rather than raising your heart rate too much. Light cardio activities such as neighborhood walks, slow treadmills, slow cycling (on a stationary bike) are good examples of how you should ease into a exercise after plastic surgery. Your surgeon will certainly have more specific advice on this but again, a general rule is no activity for 48 hours and then extremely light activity when you feel your energy returning.

Keep in mind that we are talking about any exercises at all, not just exercises that target the area of your procedure. Oftentimes, patients may think that, well, I had a breast lift so I can do leg work and it’ll be OK. Or, I had rhinoplasty so I can do bench presses and it’ll be OK.

Wrong.

Remember that your body is an interconnected system and you cannot exercise any one area without affecting the others. Sure, bench presses don’t work your nose muscles (!!), but they do raise your heart rate and increase your rate of breathing, both of which can adversely affect the healing of your rhinoplasty. Yes, doing squats works your legs and backside but it also raises your heart rate, raises your breathing and stresses your entire body so they are not a good idea immediately following your breast lift procedure.

  • More rules of thumb to go by:
    • If you have any bruising at all, do not exercise (you may need to talk to your surgeon as well, if bruising persists too long)
    • If you have any swelling, do not exercise
    • If areas are still hurting or are overly sore, do not exercise
  • A schedule for the first few weeks could be something like this:
    • First week: Enjoy three 5-minute walks each day
    • Second week: Enjoy three 10-minute walks each day
    • Third week: Enjoy three 15-minute walks each day
    • Fourth week: Enjoy four 15-minute walks each day. Talk with your surgeon at around this point to see if you can increase your level of activity
    • Fifth week: Based on your surgeon’s advice, you may be able to ease back into an exercise regimen

Given the above, lets take a look at how patients of specific cosmetic or plastic surgery procedures can get back into an exercise program

Exercise after Liposuction

Since it is entirely possible to gain weight back after Liposuction, it’s important to keep diet and exercise in focus during your recovery period and onward. Nobody undergoes liposuction with the intention of regaining weight, but many do regain weight anyway. It’s important to keep in mind that as you exercise after your liposuction procedure, the treated areas will show increased swelling for up to six months after your procedure. This doesn’t jeopardize the ultimate results of your liposuction but it may make it longer before you see that actual results. Many patients understand this and consider the trade-off of delayed results and being able to get back into an exercise program acceptable.

The general advice here (and again, consult your surgeon!) is that after the first week or whenever you feel rested enough, energized enough and not too sore, you can begin taking light walks around the block or on a slow treadmill. You’ll want to avoid vigorous exercise after plastic surgery such as running, weightlifting or high cardio activities such as Zumba. You’ll want to stay at this level for about 6 weeks. This will enable you to gain the psychological benefits of exercise without putting your body through too much strain – all of this without impacting the healing process. After about 6 weeks, if you feel up to it, you can increase your level of activity but do so slowly. If you were at 25% of normal activity for the previous 6 weeks, you might want to bump it up to around 50% for a few weeks. After that, you’ll be two months out from your procedure and should be able to get back into more of a normal routine.

Your surgeon will advise you that your diet and exercise after your Liposuction is important to maintain the results of the procedure. If you do not take care with diet and exercise after plastic surgery, there’s a very good chance you can end up in the same shape as before. Fortunately, the majority of Liposuction patients go into this with high expectations and the will-power to “do better this time” which can be a powerful ally for your efforts. It is painfully common to see Liposuction patients who do not undertake an exercise regimen regain significant belly fat within 6 months of their surgery. Don’t let yourself be that person.

Cardio exercise is, of course, great to keep fat off and stay in shape. After the healing process is complete, running, cycling and aerobics combined with a healthy diet will ensure the results of your Liposuction last. In addition to the standard exercises, a few specific ones are outlined below:

  • Exercise Ball Crunch: Instead of doing normal crunches on the floor, rest your back against a medicine ball, keep your knees at about a 90 degree angle and lift your body until your back is off the ball, then lower your back slowly. Shoot for 3-5 sets of 8-12 repetitions each.Exercise ball crunch after plastic surgery

  • Crunches / Bicycle Crunches: This is an exercise we’ve all seen and probably done once or twice. What most people don’t understand, though, is that it is one of the very best exercises to strengthen your core. Studies have been done that show this single exercise does a great job of targeting the three main muscle groups of your abdominal area: Rectus abdominis, external obliques, and the internal obliques. Doing this single exercise can produce dramatic results for your mid-section. To do it, lie flat on your back on the floor, raise your head with your hands behind it, and then in a bicycle pedaling motion, move your legs while pulling the opposite elbow towards the knees. For example, try to touch your left elbow to your right knee and then alternate.bicycle crunch after plastic surgery

  • Plank: this exercise has become a staple for just about anybody interested in fitness from entry level athletes to Olympic gold medalists. The concept is easy, doing it is hard. Get into push-up position but on arms bent at a 90 degree angle so you’re resting on your forearms and your toes. Your back should remain straight throughout. Squeeze your core muscles while you stay in the “up” position as long as you can. Keep a timer handy and keep track of how long you can hold a solid position before your back or your butt starts lowering or raising. Once you start wiggling or raising/lowering your butt to keep the position, you’ve lost the plank so stop, rest, and do it again. Shoot for 3-5 planks each workout and see how long you can hold each. Compare against past efforts to chart your progress.
    Exercise after plastic surgery - The Plank

  • Medicine Ball Twist: This is a great exercise to work those side muscles and areas that are often neglected by other exercises. Simply sit on a flat surface (your couch works fine) and extend a medicine ball straight out in front of you. Keeping your arms straight, twist your torso around as far as you can go to the right, then back as far as you can to the left. Do this slowly and keep it under control. You can shoot for 8-12 repetitions and a comfortable number of sets. As this becomes easier, you can either increase the sets/repetitions or use a heavier medicine ball.
    Exercise after plastic surgery - Medicine ball twist

A great site for additional exercises such as this is www.livestrong.com

Exercise after a Tummy Tuck

Because of the muscle repair included in the Tummy Tuck procedure, the recovery period following a Tummy Tuck is longer than for Liposuction. Since most sports and exercise routines rely on your core musculature (which includes the rectus muscles around your abdomen), you will most likely be instructed to wait up to four weeks before beginning any kind of light cardio. Once started, you’ll be instructed to start slowly and increase your intensity slowly.

After your Tummy Tuck, you’ll want to take things very easy for a couple of weeks. Your surgeon will give you definite timelines but if you’re in the prep phase and just doing research, you’ll want to now that your inactivity/light activity phase can last several weeks and, in some cases, even a couple of months.

It’s important to remember that a Tummy Tuck is an invasive surgery. Your skin has been cut, your muscles have been cut and there’s a lot that needs to heal. With this mind, you definitely do not want to undergo strenuous activity until you’re ready. Doing so can result in complications and a breakdown in your healing process. Extreme cases can result in unsatisfactory results of the Tummy Tuck altogether so it’s critical that diet and exercise following a Tummy Tuck is given strong consideration.

  • Below is a single outline of what you can expect. Again, your surgeon will have a more definite plan and timelines for you.
    • Stand Up / Sit Down: Sounds simple, and it is, but it’s an effective means of working your weakened muscles in a way that your body is used to, thereby stimulating healing and avoiding injury. To do this, well, you’ll sit on a flat surface and simply stand up, then sit down. Do this 8-12 times or until you start to feel tire. Don’t overdue it. If you feel shaky or unsure, either stop or slow down. It’s not a terrible idea to have somebody there with you while you do this.
    • Short walks are great to promote a feeling of well being, get the blood flowing, promote healing and help prevent blood clots. While in the hospital you may be able to walk the halls a bit. When you get home, take your act on the road and get reacquainted with your neighborhood and neighbors. As your strength and endurance returns, take longer walks around more of your neighborhood, on a walking path, or through the local mall a couple of times.
    • About four weeks after your procedure, you may be able to start with very light cardiovascular exercises. Low or no impact exercises such as cycling, elliptical, treadmill and brisk walking is recommended at this point.
    • Begin performing upper-body and leg-strengthening exercises around one month after surgery, recommends the Johns Hopkins Cosmetic Center. Avoid doing exercises that specifically target your abdominal muscles until your muscle strength returns in other areas of the body. This will help you to avoid straining your stomach muscles.
    • Strengthen your abdominal muscles with simple exercises, such as pelvic thrusts and leg slides. As your abdominal strength improves, move on to various types of crunches, planks and leg lifts. Perform one set of 10 to 12 repetitions of each exercise. Add additional sets as strength and stamina increase.
    • Resume your regular exercise program when you’ve received clearance from your physician. Keep in mind that this may take several months.

Exercise after Breast Augmentation / Breast Augmentation / Breast Lift

After breast surgery of any kind, the primary concern is overworking your pectoral muscles. If your procedure involved implants, there is even more cause for concern as these implants go under the muscle and need additional time to heal. With this mind, as with the rest of this article, please follow the advice of your surgeon.

For the most part, you’ll be advised to avoid any exercise after plastic surgery that involves your pectoral muscles for a given time – follow those directions. However, at some point you’ll be given the go ahead to start exercising. You’ll want to start slow – extremely slow. A trip from the couch to the kitchen and back is about right (and will tire you out!). A basic schedule is given below but, again, follow your doctor’s advice:

First week: Rest. Yep, that’s it. You don’t want to do anything to get your heart rate up so, as mentioned above, walking from the couch to the kitchen is about the extent of it.

Second week: Extremely light cardio – really nothing more than slow walks. Get reacquainted with your neighborhood through short slow walks. Try to do it during the cooler part of the day if possible as you still don’t want to get your heart rate up nor do you want to overheat.

Week 3-4: Based on your surgeon’s advice, low impact cardio maybe be acceptable here. Very slow running at about 50% effort (no sprinting!), elliptical without using your arms and exercise bikes are good choices during this time. Your surgeon may give you the thumbs up to do some leg work, although it will probably be isolated leg extension/contraction type exercises. You won’t be ready for squats just yet. Additionally, isolated upper body work may be done such as isolated biceps and triceps exercises.

Below is a fairly standard and acceptable exercise regimen that you may be able to undertake. Feel free to print it out and show your surgeon. Call it the “Taking it Easy on the Chest” workout:

Breast Augmentation

The main concern with working out after a breast augmentation is overusing the pectoral muscles. Since the vast majority of breast implants are placed underneath the pectoralis major muscle, the muscle will need to heal from surgery before stress is placed on it through resistance training. The reason for this is the scar tissue, or capsule, that lines the pocket that holds the implant, begins forming immediately after surgery. Every woman who has breast implants has capsules lining the pockets. This is simply our body’s way of protecting us against an object (the implant) that it doesn’t recognize. The goal is to allow the capsule to form in such a way that it is undetectable. Therefore, during the initial four weeks after surgery, it is recommended that breast augmentation patients avoid overusing their pectoral muscles.

Typically, this means lifting nothing heavier than 10 pounds, no heavy pulling or pushing of objects such as car doors or even heavy purses, and no weight training. This also includes any weight lifting exercises that involve the chest and back (and to some degree, the arms), push-ups, pull-ups, dips, certain yoga poses and Pilates moves that rely on balancing body weight with the arms, swinging a golf club or tennis racquet, and using certain exercise equipment such as an elliptical trainer with arm attachments. These activities place a significant stress on the pecs and should be avoided early on after surgery.

Exercise that is allowed and encouraged during those first 4 weeks after surgery is lower body specific exercise. Any type of leg exercise including lunges, leg presses, and squats (without weights) are fine. Light to moderate cardio can also be performed, such as walking, stationary cycling, and the elliptical (without the arms) as long as there is no bouncing type of motion like running or jumping. Core specific strengthening exercises are also allowed if done very carefully.

At the four-week post-op visit, the patient’s progress will be reviewed and if all is progressing as expected and planned, the patient will be allowed to slowly begin arm workouts followed by chest exercises.

Eventually, every patient regains total strength of their pec muscles and are able to perform any exercise they desire. Dr. Williams has operated upon competitive fitness models and bodybuilders who continue to compete and highlight their pecs after breast augmentation surgery.

Breast Reduction

Following a breast reduction, many patients are anxious to exercise, as they may have had limitations in exercise due to their previous breast size. While Dr. Williams encourages physical fitness, it’s crucial to let the body sufficiently heal following a breast reduction procedure. While Dr. Williams will work with each patient on an individual basis to determine what their exercise capacity may be following a breast reduction surgery, there are some general guidelines:

Lower body exercise is encouraged in the immediate weeks following a breast reduction surgery. While weights should not be used, body weight lunges and squats are perfectly fine. Low impact cardio is encouraged, and walking, stationary bicycling, and using an elliptical without the arm attachments are all good choices. Any type of exercise involving the upper body should be avoided until clearance from the surgeon. At the four-week post-op appointment, Dr. Williams will evaluate the healing progress and determine if the patient is ready to begin exercise that involves their upper body.

Breast Lift

While it is important for patients to get back to exercise and an active lifestyle following breast lift surgery, it is also extremely important for the body to be given the necessary time to heal. Dr. Williams has experience in working with athletes following surgical procedures and will work with patients to provide specific guidelines that fit their needs. Some general guidelines following a breast lift:

Lower body exercise is recommended and encouraged following a breast lift. Body weight squats and lunges and leg presses are allowed, and light cardio using a stationary bicycle or an elliptical without the arm attachments are good choices in the weeks immediately following surgery. Any type of exercise that involves bouncing type motions or the upper body area should be avoided until the four-week post-op visit, at which time Dr. Williams will evaluate the patient and determine the most appropriate exercise program.

Exercise after Facial Plastic Surgery

After any kind of Facial Plastic Surgery or Facial Rejuvenation procedure, patients are usually advised to avoid any kind of sports or exercises that can increase their heart rate for at least four weeks. Under the skin of your face, eyelids or eyebrows are hundreds of tiny blood vessels that are in a fragile state after your procedure. Increases in blood pressure due to exercise or sports can damage these blood vessels, endangering the success of your procedure or even resulting in a necessary trip back to your surgeon to correct a hematoma. As a rule of thumb, you should wait for about 4 weeks before resuming light cardio and about 6 weeks before more strenuous activities.

Rhinoplasty

Your Rhinoplasty procedure left the blood vessels in your nose very sensitive and, as such, anything that raises your heart rate too high can result in nosebleeds and can adversely affect the final result. Typically you can start taking light walks immediately following your procedure but will be cautioned against anything strenuous enough to make you breathe hard or that might raise your blood pressure. One thing to remember is that the nasal bones can take up to six weeks to heal and any bruising or damage to these bones during the healing process can change the shape or your nose or can require additional surgery.

Exercise after Plastic Surgery – a few videos to help you recover and get fit again

Final Thoughts about Exercising after Plastic Surgery

I may have mentioned it once or twice, but be sure to consult your surgeon and follow the advice you are given. Exercising after Plastic Surgery is something you need to be very cautious about but, when done correctly, can have very positive benefits.

Enjoy!