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Exercise After Plastic Surgery

One of the most important aspects to a patient’s recovery is their ability to return to their workout routines in a manner that is safe and will not jeopardize their results. Patients generally feel better physically and mentally when they’re able to exercise, and when recovering from certain body contouring procedures, a customized workout regimen can dramatically improve results. While every patient is different and every workout program has to be customized to his or her fitness levels and overall health, some basic guidelines may apply to an average patient’s recovery.

The First Few Days After Surgery

Patients should not be overly active for the first 48 hours following their surgery.

The First Few Weeks After Surgery

Patients may gradually increase their activity level as they feel their energy level coming back. Depending on the type of surgery, it may take 1 - 2 weeks to return to normal energy levels throughout the day as their body heals and recovers from the stress of surgery. For those who are anxious to return to exercise, light cardio activities like walking the neighborhood, walking on a very slow setting on a treadmill, or cycling slowly on a stationary bike are recommended. The goal is to not elevate the heart rate too high, while still experiencing the psychological effects of exercise.

As patients return to their normal energy levels, a specific exercise regimen will be outlined based on the procedure and fitness level.

Exercise After 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.

Exercise After Liposuction

The first two weeks following liposuction are like any other procedure and the same restrictions as outlined in the general "Exercise After Plastic Surgery" instructions are applied.

By the third week, liposuction patients will be instructed to begin light cardio workouts, such as walking or stationary cycling. During the first four weeks after liposuction, all patients are required to wear a compression garment day and night to help minimize swelling and help guide skin retraction. This garment (or a sport specific garment) should also be worn during exercise. After two weeks of light cardio, the patient may resume more demanding workouts to include weight lifting and running.

The amount of exercise that can be done at four weeks depends on the amount of liposuction performed and how many areas of the body were treated. Also, it’s important to understand that as one exercises after liposuction, the treated areas will experience prolonged swelling, sometimes for up to six months after surgery. This does not jeopardize the results, but it may prolong the final result. However, most patients are willing to wait for the final result if it means they can get back to their workout routine faster.

Exercise After a Tummy Tuck (Abdominoplasty)

The recovery period following a tummy tuck is longer than that of just liposuction. Because of the muscle repair that is involved in a tummy tuck, the body needs a longer time to heal before becoming stressed by any kind of workout.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of sports and training routines rely on activating the core musculature, which includes the rectus muscles. Therefore, patients are instructed to wait four weeks before beginning light cardio exercise. When patients begin this exercise at four weeks following surgery, they have to start very slowly and advance to a more vigorous routine over a span of four additional weeks, which will allow adequate time for the muscles to heal. Once the patient is able to perform moderate cardio exercises, they will be released for light resistance training and then finally core work. It may take 8 - 10 weeks before a patient may perform sit-ups, crunches, or twisting movements.  As with liposuction, a compression garment is recommended during the first 6 - 8 weeks following surgery to limit swelling and guide skin retraction. Also, patients will experience prolonged swelling around the waist and above the scar the more they work out in the early post-operative period. This is not harmful; it simply prolongs the final result.

Exercise After Facial Rejuvenation (Facelift, Eyelid Lift, Brow Lift)

Following a facial rejuvenation procedure, patients are recommended to refrain from any activity that will increase their heart rate and/or blood pressure for at least four weeks. This is due to the fact that these procedures involve operating beneath the skin of the face, eyelids, or brow where there are hundreds of tiny blood vessels that can easily bleed after surgery with just a slight increase in blood pressure. If this were to happen, a hematoma, or a collection of blood, could form under the skin resulting in significant complications, including a return trip to the operating room. After the first four weeks, the majority of patients can resume light cardio (walking or slow stationary cycling) and gradually work up to a more vigorous workout over the subsequent two weeks. By six weeks after surgery, most patients can return to various activities, such as hiking, golf, or yoga.

Exercise After A 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 a 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.