Returning to Exercise After Surgery

By Sam Vargas PT, DPT

Working out after surgery is an important step in your recovery process. It can be daunting too, right?! We’ve got to contend with body changes, anxiety, the mental game, getting that fitness back. It is a whole lot.

First things, first…it’s essential to consult with your healthcare provider or surgeon for personalized advice based on your specific surgery and individual circumstances. You know we have an individualized approach with clients, but here are some general guidelines to keep in mind when returning to exercise after surgery:

1. Follow the recommended healing period

Every surgical procedure and individual recovery time is unique. Your healthcare provider will provide specific instructions on how long you should wait before engaging in physical activity. It’s crucial to allow your body enough time to heal properly before resuming exercise.

2. Start slow

Once you receive clearance from your healthcare provider, gradually reintroduce physical activity. Begin with light exercises and gradually increase the intensity, duration, and frequency over time. Listen to your body and avoid pushing yourself too hard too soon. Take a look at US News and World Report for a guide to exercise.

3. Focus on gentle movements and flexibility

Initially, focus on gentle movements that promote flexibility and mobility. This can include stretching, gentle yoga, or walking. Take a look at this blog for stretches. These low-impact activities can help improve blood circulation, reduce stiffness, and aid in the healing process.

4. Avoid high-impact or strenuous activities

High-impact exercises, such as running or jumping, can put excessive stress on your healing tissues. Avoid activities that involve heavy lifting, intense cardio, or sudden, jerky movements until you have fully recovered. Instead, opt for low-impact exercises that minimize strain on your body.

5. Listen to your body

Pay attention to any signs of discomfort or pain during and after exercise. If you experience unusual pain, swelling, or other symptoms, stop exercising and consult your healthcare provider. It’s essential to balance pushing yourself to regain fitness with giving your body the rest it needs for proper healing.

6. Modify your workouts

Make necessary modifications to your exercise routine to accommodate any physical limitations resulting from your surgery. For example, if you had abdominal surgery, you may need to avoid exercises that put strain on your core. Work with a qualified fitness professional or physical therapist who can help you develop a safe and effective exercise program.

7. Gradually increase intensity and duration

As your recovery progresses, gradually increase the intensity and duration of your workouts. Add strength training exercises to rebuild muscle strength and endurance. It’s important to progress at a pace that feels comfortable for your body.

8. Stay hydrated and maintain a balanced diet

Proper hydration and nutrition are crucial for overall health and recovery. Stay well-hydrated and consume a balanced diet rich in essential nutrients, including protein, vitamins, and minerals. Adequate nutrition supports tissue healing and helps your body cope with the physical demands of exercise.

9. Get sufficient rest

Alongside exercise, prioritize rest and recovery. Allow your body to recuperate between workouts to prevent overexertion and promote healing. Aim for quality sleep and listen to your body’s signals for rest and recovery.

Remember, these guidelines are general in nature, and your healthcare provider’s recommendations may vary based on your specific surgery and individual circumstances. Talk to us or your healthcare provider before starting any exercise program after surgery. We can and will provide personalized advice and ensure that you are on the right track to a safe and successful recovery.

By Sam Vargas PT, DPT

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