Exercising After Tummy Tuck (Abdominoplasty) Surgery

Written by Timothy McGee, MD, Board Certified Plastic Surgeon on February 26, 2021 One Comment

tummy tuck exercising

Abdominoplasty, or tummy tuck surgery, is one of the most transformative cosmetic surgery procedures. It reduces fat and skin in the abdominal region and can also tighten muscles. However, it is also one of the most invasive plastic surgery procedures. Understandably, many patients inspired by their post-abdominoplasty physique are eager to get back to their fitness routine. But it is essential to allow the body to recover and slowly return to exercise to prevent injury.

In this post, we will discuss when tummy tuck patients should expect to return to their gym or their favorite form of exercise.

The Importance of Recovery

Abdominoplasty is an invasive procedure that requires an extended recovery period. Your general health status (including age and fitness), the extent of the surgical procedure, and your adherence to the doctor’s post-operative orders impact the required length of your recovery time.

The term “tummy tuck” is a lay term used to describe a surgical procedure to improve the appearance of the abdomen. A wide variety of surgical techniques can be used in a tummy tuck ranging from a “skin only” procedure to an extended tummy tuck with muscle tightening and additional liposuction. Generally speaking, the more extensive the procedure, the longer the recovery time to return to a normal workout routine. However, muscle tightening has the biggest impact on the time it will take to return to a routine workout program.

All patients are unique individuals and have different degrees of youthfulness, health, and fitness. Generally speaking, the younger, healthier and more fit a patient is before surgery the faster they will heal after surgery. Each patient also has unique qualities to their skin, fascia, and muscle that may allow for a more rapid return to exercise.

While every patient wants to minimize their recovery time, returning to exercise too soon may result in prolonged swelling, separation of your incisions, blood clots, infection, or the formation of excess scar tissue. You must follow your doctor’s orders, listen to your body, and be willing to hold off on activity if necessary.

Exercise After Abdominoplasty: What to Expect

The timeline below offers a general idea of a typical patient’s return to exercise following a tummy tuck procedure. Your recovery may look differently depending on a myriad of factors including the abdominoplasty technique performed, your unique pain tolerance, and your body’s recovery response. You should discuss with your plastic surgeon what your unique individual timetable will be.

First 24 Hours Post Surgery

The first 24 hours after your surgery are critical. Even the fittest patients may experience difficulty sitting up, lying down, or doing simple tasks. Now is the time to be patient, to rest, and to hydrate. Schedule a friend, family member, or another caretaker to help you move around your home.

But do get some movement. Walking for short distances promotes blood circulation and healing, and can prevent blood clots. Don’t be surprised if you need support, or if you cannot stand tall. It’s perfectly fine to keep a small bend at the waist and knees to avoid overstretching your stomach.

  • Try sitting up, standing, and walking
  • Do nothing else but rest

1-2 Weeks After Your Tummy Tuck

You’ll typically be wearing a compression garment during this time. Because your core is involved in nearly every movement you make, it may still be difficult to do simple tasks, such as standing or walking. You should, however, make an effort to move in a gentle, non-jarring way.

Extend the lengths of your walks by the end of week one. By the end of week 2, you might add in other light cardiovascular exercises. Choose activities that slightly elevate your heart rate without stressing your core. You want to avoid any jarring activity as well as any motion that twists or extends the abdomen. Stationary cycling, especially recumbent cycling, allows you to move your legs while remaining seated. This protects the abdominal muscles from overextending.

  • Take longer walks
  • Add in zero-impact cardio
  • No yoga or full-body fitness
  • Avoid stressing your core

3-4 Weeks After Your Tummy Tuck

By the third week, swelling begins to reduce significantly. If you haven’t yet explored longer walks or other zero-impact cardiovascular activities, you should. Continue to avoid strength training and other full-body movements that stress the muscles of the core. You are not yet ready for sit-ups. However, some of the more fit patients can perform straight leg lifts from lying down positions.

  • Take even longer walks
  • Add in low-impact cardio
  • No yoga or full-body fitness
  • Avoid stressing your core

4-6 Weeks After Your Tummy Tuck

Continue to slowly and steadily increase the intensity of your cardio. Around the one-month mark, low-impact activities such as walking, elliptical, and indoor cycling are still your best bet for daily movement. If you’re recovering well and your body is ready, try going for brisk walks, short runs, or otherwise increasing the impact level of your cardio training.

You may slowly add in strength training, but choose exercises that isolate the arms and lower body, without engaging the core. If you’re not an expert in weight training, it’s helpful to have a personal trainer who can help ensure you’re isolating the proper muscle groups. It is generally preferred to lift light weights for more repetitions.

  • Slowly build cardio intensity and impact
  • Add in mindful strength training
  • Avoid sit-ups and stressing your core

6-8 Weeks After Your Tummy Tuck

By the 6-week mark, you’ll likely be cleared for all types of aerobic activity. Running and other moderate to high impact exercises should be ok, and you may add in yoga and other (gentle) full-body movements.

If you’re comfortable with cardio, you can proceed with strength training. Still, be careful with exercises that strain the abdominal wall. Free weights are preferred rather than weight machines, as they allow you to better isolate the targeted muscle group. Patients are typically back to their pre-surgery exercise routine after the 8-week mark, although each individual case will vary.

  • Return to moderate or high impact cardio
  • Isolated strength training is ok
  • Avoid stressing your core

Can I Do Sit-Ups or Crunches After a Tummy Tuck?

It’s common to feel eager about exercising the core to maintain your new contour. Keep in mind that core-focused exercises like sit-ups or crunches stress the abdomen directly and may cause irreversible damage if done too soon. The majority of patients can resume sit-ups and crunches 12 weeks following tummy tuck surgery, but it is always best to discuss with your surgeon your unique surgery before you begin targeted abdominal muscle workouts.

When you’re ready to add in abdominal strengthening, be patient and careful. Crunches and other supine exercises that support the back allow you to control and isolate the abdominal muscles without overstretching the area. As you get your strength back, you’ll be able to introduce a wider range of movement.

But Exercise Is Important!

Because your abdominoplasty recovery may last a good two months, returning to daily exercise can be challenging. Still, you need to exercise to preserve your tummy tuck results. Until you’re cleared by your surgeon for physical activity, eat healthy whole foods, and remind yourself a new lifestyle is on its way. Minimizing any weight gain after your surgery is one of the best things you can do to maintain the results of your abdominoplasty procedure.

Timothy McGee, MD

Dr. McGee has been practicing plastic surgery for more than 18 years in all areas of the field, including cosmetic surgery and reconstructive breast and facial surgery. Dr. McGee is board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery and the American Board of Surgery. He has numerous hospital affiliations in the Round Rock and greater Austin areas and is a member of the American Society of plastic Surgeons, American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, American College of Surgeons and Austin Smiles.

One Response to “Exercising After Tummy Tuck (Abdominoplasty) Surgery”

  1. Avatar Ana says:

    I’m 4 weeks out from my tummy tuck and have started doing more exercise. Still not ready for a sit-up though 🙂

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