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How long should you wait to workout after surgery?

workout after surgery

If you’re an avid fitness enthusiast, you probably don’t like staying away from your workouts for long. I often get asked by patients when they’ll be able to get back to working out after a surgical procedure. So whether you’re a runner, weight lifter, or biker, or whatever your workout of choice, here’s how long you’ll need to wait after surgery to exercise, as well as why it’s important to wait in the first place. 

What happens if I exercise too soon after surgery?

There are so many benefits to exercise, from physical health benefits to mental health benefits, so it’s no wonder people are eager to get back on track as soon as possible. But there are very legitimate reasons why you should take things easy after any surgical procedure. The biggest reason is to allow your body the rest and relaxation it needs to heal up properly. The body allocates resources to healing. By exercising, you run the risk of undoing stitches if present. And exercise can increase swelling in the area, further impeding the surgical site’s proper recovery. 

How long should I wait to workout after surgery?

This question primarily depends on several factors. What type of surgery you had is often the most critical factor determining how long your body needs to rest afterward. Often the amount of time will range from between 1–6 weeks. Minimally invasive surgeries may need just a few days to a week before you can get back to working out, while more complicated surgeries involving incisions will take much longer to heal. And not all exercises are the same. You may get the ok from your doctor to start biking, for example, sooner than you can get back into weightlifting. With your doctor’s go-ahead, you might be able to start walking, or other light exercises sooner than you can get back into more intense workouts. 

What’s more, everyone is different. While general recommendations may be, say, six weeks of rest for your particular surgery, that just means most will be ready in that timeframe. But one person’s body could need more time to heal, or even slight complications can arise, necessitating further rest. For this reason, it’s essential to keep up with any and all instructions your doctor has given you for healing after surgery, as well as to keep any postsurgical appointments your doctor has told you to schedule. At this appointment, your doctor will check how your incision site(s) are healing up, answer any questions you may have, and clear you to resume normal activity as long as your body is ready for it. And, of course, listen to your body. If you have been cleared to work out, but you are experiencing any pain when you do, or it just doesn’t feel right, stop and ask your doctor. 

Examples of surgical procedures and when you can start working out 

Balloon sinuplasty: 1 week 

Liposuction: 6 weeks for full activity

Facelift: 4–6 weeks

Rhinoplasty: 2 weeks

Ear surgery (otoplasty): 6 weeks

Blepharoplasty (eyelid surgery): 2 weeks

Tips for getting back to workout after surgery

Once your doctor clears you to work out, it’s important to ease back into things. Start slowly, as if you were beginning a new workout regimen. 2–3 days a week, depending on the intensity of the exercise, should be enough to get you started that first week. Then increase by a day per week until you’re at your usual workout frequency. Also, be sure to go slowly in terms of intensity. If running, for example, start at a jog or a slower running pace than you were used to before. Listen to your body as you go; if anything doesn’t feel right, stop and ask your doctor for advice.

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