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Exercise and Plastic Surgery: How Soon is Too Soon?

Exercise and Plastic Surgery: How Soon is Too Soon?
Exercise and Plastic Surgery: How Soon is Too Soon?

After undergoing an emergency appendectomy a few years ago, I was frustrated lying prone for far too long and couldn't wait to get back to my stress-busting workouts. When my doctor gave me the go-ahead and said I could take short walks in my neighborhood, I was surprised at how long it took me to circle the block. What was previously a 5 minute brisk walk turned into a 40 minute trek that left me physically exhausted, but because I followed my doctor's orders I was able to build up my endurance over time without experiencing any complications.

Surgery certainly takes a toll on the body and though light exercise shortly after surgery is often the prescribed course of action, strenuous exercise too soon afterwards can lead to complications, both minor and major. Dr. Andrew Ordon, suggests following doctor's orders since certain factors like the patients’ age, condition and the specific surgery performed need to be taken into consideration and the ideal return-to-exercise schedule for one person isn't necessarily the right fit for another, even when the same surgery is performed.

Most plastic surgeons recommend their patients wait four to six weeks or so before building up to their previous fitness regimens and light exercise is often advised to help the healing process during the recovery period. Though it differs from patient to patient walking is usually the first step taken in recovery followed by machines like the elliptical, then impactful aerobic activity and finally resistance training such as weights.

Dr. Larry Weinstein, agrees, adding there's usually no need to stop exercising or slow down your usual fitness routine before plastic surgery, but if you dive in too quickly or strenuously afterwards you could suffer the consequences. Dr. Weinstein says, "Walking is very helpful in avoiding clot formation or venous emboli, but no vigorous exercise can help you heal faster post-surgery." It can actually hamper healing, so he advises against it to prevent the following complications:

  • Rhinoplasty: nose bleeding
  • Facelift: swelling, delayed healing, bleeding, fluid collections
  • Tummy Tuck: hematomas, bleeding, wound separation
  • Breast Augmentation: displacement of a breast implant, if beneath the muscle

"The rise in heart rate and blood pressure are deleterious to all surgeries in the early postoperative period. Working out too soon can cause increased swelling, bruising, fluid collections, (which can lead to infection), wound breakdown, and the need for revision surgery," adds Dr. Ordon, which is why he strictly advises patients to lay low for variable periods, depending upon the surgery performed. That being said, stimulating circulation through walking or other low impact exercise can help prevent certain complications of both the lungs and legs. Stretching can help enhance blood flow and a general feeling of well-being whereas yoga can have meditative and restorative benefits for the mind, spirit and body.

Dr.’s Ordon and Weinstein are both members of the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) and place patient safety first in their surgical practices. The better shape you're in before surgery the better your recovery period and the results. Dr. Weinstein encourages you to follow your plastic surgeon’s recommendations to a T and advises against rationalizing your way to any strenuous activity too soon or you're asking for trouble. As Dr. Ordon says, "Ultimately, compliant patients who follow instructions enthusiastically do the best." And isn't that why you signed up for surgery in the first place.

To learn more about post-surgical care, check out this post on expert rhinoplasty recovery tips.

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