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What No One Tells You About Getting Back to the Gym After Surgery…

What No One Tells You About Getting Back to the Gym After Surgery

After surgery, heading to the gym is what all gym lovers want, but what should you know before you jump right back into it? Take a look…

For many, exercise can be an escape from everything life throws at them, an oasis to take all your troubles away. So, when surgery is on the cards – putting you out for weeks and even months on end – this can take its toll. If this sounds like you, I’m sure you’ll be dying to get back to the gym.

If your surgery was caused by something more contentious, like medical negligence, you may be too distracted to even be thinking about exercise. In this case, you’ll be more focused on meeting the time limits for medical negligence claims, so you can get the compensation you deserve. That said, if you want something to take your mind off it all, the gym may be your first port of call.

For those who are in this position and are simply dying to get back to sweating it out, this article is for you. We’ll be taking you through the dos and don’ts of heading back to exercising post-surgery. We’ll then provide some top tips for doing so with care, so read on for more…

Is it Good to Go Back to the Gym Post-Op?

Although you might think that staying still is the best way for your body to recover from a trauma, like surgery, this isn’t always the case. Yes, remaining in bed and moving very little is paramount for the first few days. That said, once your body has started to heal, moderate exercise can be instrumental in helping you recover quicker.

Exercise is also critical to stop blood clots from forming. These may be more likely to form post-surgery, especially if you’re on a specific medication. So, getting out and partaking in some light activity is very beneficial to the healing process.

You should be aware that strenuous activity can be detrimental. This is because it raises blood pressure, which can put pressure on the areas that are healing. This can cause unnecessary swelling and may even cause ruptures, hernias, and infection.

Of course, this is in extreme cases, and light exercise post-op shouldn’t do any harm; quite the opposite, in fact. Just remember that recovery time is very important, so listen to your body and heed your doctor’s advice.

How Long After Surgery Can I Go to the Gym?

For cosmetic surgery and more severe surgeries, the general ballpark figure for you to commence any exercise post-op is about two to three weeks. At this point, you should focus on the whole body and don’t push the affected area too hard. Some more specific surgery recovery times include:

  • Liposuction: light exercise straight away, increasing the intensity after two weeks.
  • Breast augmentation: 2 weeks for light exercise, increasing the intensity after four weeks, and completely healed after six weeks.
  • Tummy tucks: light exercise after two weeks, waiting six weeks for more strenuous activity, and returning to normal after eight weeks.
  • Rhinoplasty: can return to everyday daily life a week after the operation but won’t be able to do any real exercise until about a month post-op.
  • Top/chest surgery: you can start light exercise a few weeks post-op but should avoid all overhead exercises for the first few months.
  • Shoulder surgery: you should be up and about a couple of weeks post-op and focus on leg exercises for now. You can then introduce light resistance exercises on the limb three months after the operation and take things from there.
  • Heart surgery: you can start gently walking a few weeks after surgery and should aim to reach 15-20 minutes of exercise at a time by the four to six-week mark.

As you can see, it varies from surgery by surgery. You should always consult your doctor before doing anything after an operation. Always make sure to keep them in the loop to advise you if you’re ready or not.

Realistically, you shouldn’t expect to return to normal in the gym until about the six-month mark. It may even take up to a year for you to reach your previous level of exercise. This is completely normal, so you shouldn’t pressure yourself to reach certain goals; just take each day as it comes.

Remember that recovery time is such an essential part of the healing process. Please don’t ignore what your body is telling you, or it may cause more harm than good.

What Exercises to Stick to Post-Surgery…

Although light exercise, including walking, and low impact exercises like cycling and yoga, are all advised, anything too strenuous should be avoided. This includes things like sprinting and heavy lifting. Instead, it would be best if you focused on any exercises that you feel comfortable doing, completely pain-free.

After a Couple of Weeks

To do this, it’s best to focus on the muscle groups that have been unaffected by the surgery. For example, if you’ve had a knee operation, do sitting exercises to exercise your other leg, and do arm stretches, moving on to light walking when you can.

You can also stick to more stationery exercises to keep the blood flowing. This could include bicep curls, dumbbell presses, tricep presses, and floor exercises like press-ups and sit-ups.

If you’re a gym fanatic, I’m sure you’ll be dying to get back on the wagon, but you shouldn’t push yourself too hard. Start by taking short walks, increasing the speed and length when you feel ready. This can help you to get your cardio levels back up until you’re prepared for more strenuous activity.

A Month or So After Surgery

Once you feel ready, you could then segue into more high-intensity cardio. This could include using the Stairmaster, elliptical, hiking, or even heading onto the water to do some rowing. Anything low impact is a good place to start.

When it comes to weights, it can be difficult to see your previous progress go out of the window. That said, you did it once before, so you can do it again; it may just take a little more time. So, be sure you keep the intensity low and use light weights to begin with, and you can graduate to heavier weights as and when you feel ready.

5 Top Tips to Get Back to the Gym After Surgery…

Now that we’ve gone into more detail about the kinds of exercises you should stick to and others to avoid, you’re probably feeling a little nervous about it all. Alternatively, you might be a real gym buff and raring to go. It’s important not to remain stationary, and equally as important not to over-work yourself, so here are some tips to get it right:

Plan Goals Beforehand

Planning out your workout schedule is a really great place to start. The plan could include the types of exercises you’ll do and how often. This can not only gear you up to start reaching fresh goals based on your injury; it can also help you not to overstretch yourself.

Within this plan, set a goal for how far you want to get by a certain time and try not to exceed it. If you don’t quite reach the goal, don’t be too hard on yourself; listen to how your body feels, and don’t push too hard.

Consult a doctor before setting any goals to make sure they’re achievable. Setting unrealistic ones can be detrimental to both your mental and physical health, so be sensible.

Consume a Healthy Diet

Exercise is just one way to help your body heal, but a healthy diet is also instrumental too. This can be a great way to speed up the recovery process, as there are plenty of foods that promote healing and recovery. By adding these foods into your diet and maintaining a balanced meal plan throughout, you’ll get better in no time.

Pain is Not Your Friend

We’re often told “no pain, no gain”, but this can’t be said when you’re recovering from surgery. If anything, pain is not your friend, and you should take this as a warning to slow down. If you strain too hard, you might end up damaging your body, and recovery time could take even longer.

Give Yourself Time

It’s only natural for you to want to get back to your old exercise level as soon as possible. That said, your body has been through a trauma and is doing its best to heal for you. Be sure to let it do this, and don’t be too hard on yourself for the time it takes.


Finally, be sure to stretch, stretch, stretch! Whether this is before a little bit of exercise or even whilst you’re still in bed post-op, this is a great way to keep your blood flowing to reduce the chance of clots. It also helps to warm your body up for more intense activity, so don’t underestimate this important step. Here are 4 lower back stretches that may help. You can also email me and I’ll send you some specific stretches to suit.

Don’t Ignore Your Doctor’s Orders!

There we have it – your dos and don’ts for exercising post-surgery. This will likely be a real challenge for your gym lovers, but don’t take for granted the miraculous work your body is doing right now! Just take each day as it comes.

Finally, and for the last time, don’t forget to listen to your doctor before heading straight into your new workout routine. Be sure to ask for their advice and heed it.

Good luck with heading to the gym after surgery!

Thanks for reading,

Nick Screeton