Regular exercise after tummy tuck surgery, known as abdominoplasty, can help your new abdomen looking toned and attractive. Physical exercise also lessens the chance of weight gain, which can revert aspects of the cosmetic procedure. While being diligent to get back to your favorite exercise routine and activities is to be commended, remember too much activity too soon can do more harm than good.
If you opted for tummy tuck surgery to fix excess skin and weakened abdominal muscles, first and foremost, follow post-surgical instructions and doctor appointments to help reduce complications, guard your health, and help maintain your new look, according to American Society of Plastic Surgery, Inc1. Before ANY physical activity, talk to your doctor about a timeline for returning to physical activity. Each individual responds differently to cosmetic surgery, and recommendations from Dr. Michael Kulick, your San Francisco board certified plastic surgeon, will depend on your condition prior to surgery, the extensiveness of surgery, and how your body is recovering. Below is a general timeline for patients to return to their regular exercise regimen.
First 24 Hours After Tummy Tuck
The first 24 hours can be spent in the hospital to optimize comfort levels following surgery. A goal will be to sit up on your own, followed by bringing yourself to a standing position. The progressive ability to sit and then stand helps retain your surgical result, laying the groundwork for later exercise. Continue to follow the recommendations provided to you before surgery to promote blood circulation, and facilitate healing. If you are “home alone,” you can have a caregiver or nurse be present in these first attempts to sit up or get out of bed until you can do this on your own. Typically, family or friends can help with this. Another option is to hire “help” for this transition phase. Dr. Kulick will provide you with options for this.
Week One And Two Following A Tummy Tuck
Patients typically wear a compression garment for four to six weeks after surgery to maximize tummy tuck results and reduce swelling. Your mobility in these first two weeks will be limited but stamina increases. Right after surgery, you should walk short distances while maintaining a flexed posture at your hips and do NOT do any lifting of objects. By walking flexed, your abdominal muscles and fascia repair are protected from being pulled. At the end of week two, you should be able to return to your job, as long as it is not physically demanding. Being in a “sitting position” is much better that standing up straight during this time period.
Week 3-4 Exercise Routine
As your body continues to heal and swelling reduces, light exercise may be resumed after your tummy tuck. Walking and recumbent cycling are the places to start, avoiding more vigorous exercise or exercises targeting the abdominal wall including sit-ups and weight lifting. Work for a smooth, continuous motion without jarring steps and a straight back. Always confirm this process with your doctor as everyone’s recovery is different.
4-6 Weeks Post Tummy Tuck Surgery
Paying attention to any warning signs, such as pain, normal exercise routines can be started at low, strenuous levels. Take it slow. Low impact aerobics, water aerobics, extended recumbent biking and longer walking, and very light weight lifting for your arms or legs may be recommended.
6-8 Weeks After Tummy Tuck Surgery
Most types of aerobics are generally cleared at this point. Running outside or on a treadmill helps build stamina. Moderate swimming and even spin class are not out of the question anymore. A patient who can perform moderate cardio activity can be released for more resistance training. Incorporate upper body and leg exercises with free weights or range-of-motion exercises to strengthen your body without putting too much strain on the abdominal wall following a tummy tuck. This evolution is dependent upon your evaluation with your doctor.
After 8 Weeks After Tummy Tuck Surgery
Prolonged swelling around the waist and above the scar can occur if a patient begins core work too soon following tummy tuck surgery. Be patient to work your abdominal muscles as your body heals. Waiting a week or two until after the third month to strengthen the core may alter your tummy tuck final results. Remember, you have had this procedure to flatten your tummy. So, doing anything that can stretch out the surgical results is a no-no!
Exercise Ideas & Tips
Once your have healed from your surgery as confirmed by your surgeon, you can keep things moving in the right direction. There are four main muscle groups determine the contour and appearance of the abdomen including the rectus abdominis, the internal and external obliques, and the transversus abdominis. Once cleared for full exercise, the list of tummy toning exercises is extensive. Trainers may recommend to choose three different types of core exercises each time you weight train. Perform 3 sets of 12-15 repetitions. Give a few minutes between sets to allow your body to rest. Listen to your body, and or trainer, to make appropriate adjustments as needed. Stop if you feel any pain.
The traditional crunch requires minimal movement, leaving less chance for improper form and injury. Be slow and controlled isolating the abdominal muscles, with the back on the floor, to create time for the muscles to be under tension. Look up to the ceiling so your chin stays away from your chest, while placing your hands behind your head. Add a twist to the crunch movement, with alternate lifting shoulders, to work the oblique muscles as well. Then, with a chair, progress to a V crunch. Sit on the chair with your back straight and arms at your side. Lean back to a 45-degree angle in a V like position. Contract your abdomen and raise your legs, maximizing the effectiveness by keeping legs straight.
Another core strengthening exercise is floor leg lifts. Lying down on your back with your arms at your sides, lift your legs 6 to 10 inches off the ground while tightening your abdominal muscles for as long as possible, then lower your legs. The plank is an all-around toning exercise. Place your hands directly under your shoulders in the push-up position and hold the pose for up to one minute. Do not allow your hips to drop and keep your body straight.
Stability ball exercises, whether crunches or planks, engage multiple muscle groups simultaneously. Be straight and stable as long as you can for 30 seconds while tightening your abs. Continue to challenge the muscles to work in different ways including knee fold tucks, climbing the rope, side balance crunch, circle plank, sliding pike, and oblique reach. Pilates and yoga exercises will benefit core muscles as well.
Exercise is a critical part of recovery following tummy tuck surgery. Follow the instructions from your doctor based on your recovery process. Healthy eating also will help maximize results. An exercise plan should be discussed with your doctor. Dr. Kulick, a leading board certified plastic surgeon in San Francisco, CA, would be happy to help craft the safe and healthy fitness plan best suiting your individual needs or to help answer questions about exercise following the tummy tuck procedures.
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- American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS). Exercising after tummy tuck surgery. Retrieved from https://www.surgery.org/consumers/plastic-surgery-news-briefs/exercising-tummy-tuck-surgery-1036995