Exercising after surgery is one of the most important things you can do to support your recovery. These tips will help you get started.


Go easy to avoid injury

Particularly if you were active before exercise, you may feel tempted to pick up where you left off. That is a mistake. The good news is you won’t necessarily be beginning at ground zero, some of your fitness base will still be in place and you can rebuild from there. Runners – once your doctor gives the all-clear, start by walking at a moderate pace for 15 to 30 minutes for several days. Notice how you feel. Give particular attention to heart rate as well as any muscle soreness or aches in the hours after exercise. Don’t ignore pain. Gradually build up to running by starting at 40% of your pre-exercise level of exertion. If your body handles the stress well, add about 10% more effort every other week. Don’t be afraid about backing off when you need to. Walking is great for recovery as well as overall fitness.


A little goes a long way

In many cases, you can begin with simple exercises right from your hospital bed. Gentle stretching movements or rotating shoulders, wrists and ankles can improve blood flow – important for healthy recovery. 


Low-impact yields high impact

Think exercises such as yoga, Tai Chi, swimming and biking. Of course, the kind of exercise you choose will depend on the kind of surgery you had. Generally, you want to take extra care of the affected area. At the same time, it is almost always helpful to get moving. For example, if you have had knee surgery swimming may be better than running. If you have had breast surgery walking may be better than tennis. Not sure? Low impact is the safest way to go. Head to a gentle yoga class or even a chair yoga class to ease your way back into fitness.


Talk with your doctor about when it is safe to return to exercise. Being active can help you improve outcomes and feel like you are more in control of the recovery process. Moreover, exercise can improve blood flow and help joints regain their normal range of motion. Don’t be discouraged by setbacks. Healing after surgery takes time so be patient with yourself as you rediscover your body. Compassionately start where you are and rebuild your body from there.