Tummy tuck patients are among the most motivated exercisers I see at my Columbia plastic surgery practice. Many are women who have had children and are looking to regain their pre-pregnancy shapes. Others may be men or women who made the commitment to lose significant weight, either through surgery or lifestyle changes, and are now committed to keeping the weight off.
What tummy tuck patients have in common is the desire to remove excess abdominal skin that no amount of exercising or dieting can get rid of. Most of the patients also are eager to return to their exercise routines as soon as possible. But returning to the gym too soon can not only make the recovery extend longer than it should, but it can also be dangerous.
In this blog post, I’ll provide a general timeline that most patients can follow as they gradually increase the intensity of their workouts. It’s important to note that people recover at their own pace and, ultimately, what’s appropriate for one person may not be a good idea for someone else.
A tummy tuck is major surgery, and you need to pace yourself as your incisions heal and your body recovers. These guidelines cover the first few weeks after surgery:
Week 1: Most patients don’t feel like moving around at all during the first few days after the procedure, but actually it is important to walk around the house a few times a day to get the blood pumping (but not too hard). Circulation is an important part of the healing process, and walking reduces the risks of blood clots developing.
Weeks 2-3: At this point, patients should be able to stand straight and can gradually increase the distance of their walks. It’s important to listen to your body and not try to overdo the amount of time you’re walking.
Weeks 4-6: Being patient is one of the most difficult parts of recovery following a tummy tuck, and that’s especially true after about a month of limited exercise. The good news is that most patients can return to the gym at this point but should limit their workouts to low-impact aerobics or using a treadmill for some simulated uphill walking.
Weeks 6-8: Patients ready to resume more strenuous exercises should get cleared for these types of activities before starting. This is when you can participate in full aerobic workouts, including running, spin classes on stationary bikes, swimming, and other cardio training.
Weeks 12-18: For patients who incorporate strength training into the exercise regimen, it’s now okay start weightlifting. Sit-ups, resistance exercises, and high-intensity activities should all be fine by this time.
Again, I can’t emphasize enough that this timeline isn’t set in stone and that it’s important to maintain perspective. Compromising the results of a tummy tuck isn’t worth getting back to the gym a week earlier than you should. Women who have had their abdominal muscles repaired after having children as part of their tummy tucks may need a longer recovery period.
Even though recovery can be a bit challenging for some people, it’s my experience as a plastic surgeon in Columbia, MO, that tummy tuck patients are among the most satisfied of all of my patients because the physical transformation can be so dramatic. You can see the results of patients I’ve treated in our before-and-after photo gallery. You can also contact my office to schedule a personal consultation using the online form.