Exercising after Breast Augmentation: What You Need to Know

Written by Cameron Craven, MD, FACS, Board Certified Plastic Surgeon on September 11, 2023 No Comments

exercising after breast augmentation

Originally published on January 20, 2021. Republished on September 11, 2023 with additional information.

For many women, breast augmentation is just one part of a journey toward a toned, well-contoured physique that’s been made possible by a commitment to physical fitness and healthy living. Patients with a steady exercise routine are understandably eager to get back to their workouts as quickly as possible. To maintain your results and avoid complications, here’s what you need to know about exercising after breast augmentation.

What Can Go Wrong? 

Some movement is beneficial for healing, but too much strenuous activity can have negative consequences. The tissue in your breasts needs time to heal, even if it appears your incisions have closed.

Exercises that put too much stress on the upper body can compromise your result and may increase the risk of displacement or malposition of the implant. Strenuous activity too soon after surgery may also increase the risk of postsurgical bleeding, which could warrant additional surgery.

To avoid issues, follow the advice of your doctor closely and take your return to exercise patiently and slowly. Listen to your body and be willing to make changes if something doesn’t feel right.

Breast Augmentation Recovery

In the immediate postoperative period of a breast augmentation, intense physical activity could potentially interfere with the healing process. The timeframe for resuming exercise after breast augmentation can vary depending on factors such as the extent of the surgery, the type of implants used, the surgeon’s technique and implant placement (i.e., under or over the muscle) and the patient’s healing response. Surgeons often advise refraining from high-impact exercises, heavy lifting, and activities that involve repetitive arm movements for 6–8 weeks following surgery.

Post-operative Exercise Guidelines

Although high-impact exercise is not safe after breast augmentation surgery, there are low-impact exercises that patients can safely participate in to stay active during the recovery period, such as walking, stationary cycling, and moderate yoga and stretching (avoid stretching in the chest area). These exercises promote blood circulation and help prevent complications in the postoperative period.

  • Walking: Walking is a low-impact exercise that can be started relatively soon after surgery. Begin with short, slow walks and gradually increase the duration and intensity. Walking helps promote blood circulation and aids in overall recovery.
  • Stationary cycling: Riding a stationary bike is another low-impact exercise that allows for control of the intensity.
  • Yoga or Pilates: These exercises focus on flexibility, core strength, and gentle muscle toning. Choose modified poses or beginner-level classes that avoid putting too much pressure on the chest area.

It is essential for patients to start slowly and gradually increase the intensity and duration of workouts over the breast augmentation recovery period. Patients must listen to their body and to stop any activity that causes pain or discomfort.

Exercising After Augmentation: Typical Timeline

Below is a timeline for exercise after breast augmentation surgery. Keep in mind, this is a suggested, general timeline and will not apply to all patients. It’s important to listen to the surgeon when it comes to exercise following surgery and stop any activity that causes pain or discomfort.

Week 1

During the initial week following breast surgery, it is crucial to prioritize rest and limit physical activity. Engaging in low-impact exercises, such as walking around the house, is generally recommended. It’s important to avoid cardio that elevates the heart rate, as well as strength training exercises. This means refraining from activities like neighborhood walks, stair climbing, treadmill use, peloton workouts, or elliptical training.

Additionally, it is vital to steer clear of weight training or any strenuous exercises. Overexertion can hinder the healing process and potentially lead to complications, including bleeding around the implant. Focus on recovery during this week.

Week 2

During the second week following surgery, it is important to consider the presence of residual swelling that needs time to subside. As a result, engaging in cardio exercises during this period should be avoided.

Light walking around the neighborhood or at a nearby mall is a suitable option, keeping the distance under a mile. Consider the heat as well, it may be beneficial to choose shorter walking routes to prevent excessive sweating. It is important to avoid power-walking or engaging in activities that may overexert. As for weightlifting and strength training, it is still recommended to refrain from those activities during the second week.

Week 3

Typically, during this week, patients are cleared to engage in lower body strength training while still avoiding exercises that target the upper body.

Focus on exercises that target glutes, lower abs, quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves. Suitable options include lunges, leg presses, calf raises, and squats. However, it is crucial to ensure that chest muscles are not clenching when performing these exercises.

It is important to note that cardio exercises should still be avoided at this stage, as it is best to avoid any activities that raise blood pressure. Increased blood circulation can lead to more swelling in the breasts, potentially hindering the healing process. Instead, consider taking light walks in the neighborhood.

Week 4

Week 4 marks a significant milestone in the recovery journey. At this point, most patients can incorporate light cardio exercises into their routine. Patients may gradually and gently reintroduce upper body and arm exercises to their strength training regimen, as well. However, patients whose implants are placed under the muscle should wait one more week before including exercises that involve the pecs, latissimus dorsi, and trapezius muscles.

Weeks 5–6

This is the phase when patients can gradually reintegrate their favorite activities back into their routine, but it’s best to hold off on strenuous exercise until weeks 6–7. However, it is crucial to approach these exercises with caution. Rather than immediately reaching for the same weights used before surgery, patients should start with lighter weights and gradually rebuild their strength.

Specific Considerations for Chest and Upper Body Exercises

Exercises that specifically target the upper chest, like pushups, bench presses, and chest-focused stretches, should be avoided until the patient is fully healed. These activities can put strain on the chest muscles and potentially interfere with the healing process.

High contact sports or activities that heavily involve the chest, such as golf, tennis, or swimming, should be put on hold until the 6-to-8-week mark after surgery, as the body needs time to recover and minimize any potential complications.

When it comes to lifting weights or engaging in activities that require pushing or pulling heavy objects, it is best to avoid those as well. Any weight over 10 pounds should be off-limits for now. Take it easy and avoid unnecessary strain.

However, here is the good news! With the surgeon’s approval, patients can gradually reintroduce chest and upper body exercises into their routine. Modified push-ups and weightlifting with lighter weights can be great options to minimize strain on the chest muscles. Patients should just remember to prioritize proper form to ensure they are exercising safely and effectively.

Returning to Sports and High-Impact Activities

Around the 6-to-8-week mark, most patients receive the green light to return to sports and high-impact activities after breast augmentation surgery.

But before diving in, patients should make sure they are wearing a high-quality, supportive sports bra. A sports bra specially designed for post-augmentation support will provide the comfort and protection patients need.

Altering The Way You Exercise

Depending on the size of implant chosen, breast augmentation patients may find that performing certain exercises or movements are more challenging or uncomfortable. For some women, the change will be short-term as they just need to get used to exercising with larger breasts. However, other may require longer-term changes to the way they exercise like the following:

Wearing The Right Sports Bra

Post-surgery, it may be necessary to wear a more secure sports bra that can provide advanced stability and minimize movement. Look for a sports bra with a wider back and increased front coverage. We always recommend patients to take their time and find the right fitting sports bra. If needed, patients should consider getting professionally fitted for all bras (including sports bras) after their procedure. This can be done through a consultation with your surgeon or via an undergarment specialist.

Change How You Exercise

In some cases, patients may want to make changes to their exercise routine:

  • Use exercise bike or elliptical rather than running
  • Consider doing yoga or water aerobics rather than cardio classes
  • Opt for body weight exercises rather than lifting weights

Patients who experience continued discomfort doing high-intensive exercise after breast augmentation can seek the help of a fitness professional like a personal trainer for help creating a new exercise regimen that considers their changed physique.

Sample Exercise Routine Following Breast Augmentation Surgery

Note: This workout routine focuses on low-impact exercises and gradually increases in intensity over time. Start with lighter weights and fewer repetitions, and only progress if you feel comfortable and experience no pain or discomfort.

Weeks 1-4: Gentle Movements and Stretching

  1. Walking: Begin with short walks around your home or neighborhood. Gradually increase the duration and pace as you feel more comfortable.
  2. Shoulder Rolls: Stand or sit upright with relaxed shoulders. Slowly roll your shoulders forward and then backward in a smooth motion. Repeat 10 times in each direction.
  3. Neck Stretches: Gently tilt your head to one side, bringing your ear closer to your shoulder. Hold for 15 seconds on each side. Repeat 3 times on each side.
  4. Ankle Pumps: While seated, flex your ankles, pointing your toes upward. Then, point your toes downward. Repeat this motion for 1 minute.

Weeks 5-8: Light Resistance Training

Perform 2-3 sets of 10-12 repetitions for each exercise, using light weights or resistance bands:

  1. Squats: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Lower your body as if sitting back into a chair, keeping your weight in your heels. Return to the starting position and repeat.
  2. Chest Press: Lie on a bench or mat with a light dumbbell in each hand. Extend your arms upward, palms facing forward. Slowly lower the weights towards your chest, and then push them back up to the starting position.
  3. Bent-Over Rows: Stand with your knees slightly bent, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Bend forward at the waist while keeping your back straight. Pull the weights up towards your chest, squeezing your shoulder blades together. Slowly lower the weights back down.
  4. Tricep Dips: Sit on a bench or chair with your hands resting on the edge, fingers facing forward. Slide your bottom off the bench and lower your body by bending your elbows. Push back up to the starting position.
  5. Step-Ups: Find a stable step or platform. Step up with one foot, followed by the other, and then step down. Alternate the leading foot for each set.

Weeks 9-12: Increasing Intensity

Continue with the exercises from weeks 5-8, gradually increasing the weights and repetitions as you feel comfortable. You can also incorporate some cardio exercises into your routine, such as stationary biking or using an elliptical machine, for 20-30 minutes at a moderate intensity.

Good Things Take Time

In general, be patient with your body as you recover from breast augmentation surgery. As you probably know from your workouts and your fitness-oriented lifestyle, results don’t appear overnight. Waiting until you’ve fully healed, and being patient with your return to your pre-surgery fitness level will protect your body, your results, and your investment.

Cameron Craven, MD, FACS

Cameron Craven MD, FACS is board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. Dr. Craven specializes in the full spectrum of cosmetic surgery including breast augmentation, liposuction and body contouring, facial rejuvenation, laser surgery, eyelid surgery, and rhinoplasty, as well as reconstructive surgery for skin cancers.

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