Exercising After a Tummy Tuck

If you've recently had a tummy tuck, you will likely want to know when it is safe to resume exercise and sexual activities. Also known as an abdominoplasty, a tummy tuck is a surgery to remove excess skin and fat from the belly.

Starting exercise too soon after a tummy tuck can lead to complications such as poor wound healing, scarring, or a need for follow-up surgery.

Senior woman stretching in a group exercise class
Jon Feingersh / Getty Images

This article offers advice on when you can safely return to physical activity as well as ways to modify your daily activities so that you can heal properly.

Immediately After Surgery

When you awaken from surgery, your abdomen will be covered with a sterile dressing, and you may have tiny tubes to help drain fluid from the wound. This is common and should not cause any concern.

On the day of your surgery, you will be directed to walk a bit to promote blood circulation and healing. Don't do this alone—you could be at risk of falling because your balance and strength might be impaired due to postoperative pain or the effects of anesthesia.

Once home, you will likely have trouble with bending, reaching, or standing for long periods of time. If you live alone, it helps to have someone stay with you for at least a couple of days until you are able to take care of everyday tasks.

Most surgeons recommend waiting at least two to three days after surgery before showering.

Light cardio activity, such as walking, is started immediately after surgery and continued until your doctor clears you for more. You can walk a bit longer and farther each day to help build your strength.

However, you have to avoid squatting and lifting heavy objects for the first few weeks. This includes lifting groceries and small children.

Returning to Exercise

People who have had a tummy tuck are sometimes a bit too eager to return to exercise given their trim, new physique. This is something you need to avoid. Depending on the extent of your surgery, your surgeon may tell you to wait four to 10 weeks after your tummy tuck.

When you do begin, start slowly with only a few repetitions, paying extra-close attention to form. If you have not exercised before, ask your surgeon for a referral to a personal trainer experienced in tummy tuck recovery. This helps ensure you proceed smartly and safely.

There are no standard guidelines on how to exercise after a tummy tuck, but most surgeons agree that you should avoid stressing the stomach muscles until the tissues are fully healed.

Start with light weights to slowly build strength and tone to the upper body. You can also perform exercises that strengthen the legs, such as calf raises, step-ups, and thigh exercises with resistance bands.

Until you are fully healed, avoid planks, squats, lunges, pull-ups, sit-ups, or any lifting exercises.

Once your surgeon gives you the OK, you can begin to do crunches, sit-ups, and planks as long as you start slowly and progress gradually. Pay attention to form, set reasonable goals, and listen to your body. If you experience any pain or something doesn't feel right, ease back. Do not rush things.

Recap

Depending on the extent of your surgery, you may need to wait between four to 10 weeks before returning to exercise. Start with upper body and leg exercises, and only start abdominal exercises when your doctor gives you the OK.

Modifying Daily Activities

As for daily activity, you need to avoid lifting objects that weigh more than 5 pounds for six weeks because this can cause harm to the incision site, potentially leading to bleeding and scarring. Driving, cooking, or shopping is usually OK after the first week or two.

Ask your surgeon how long you need to stay home after the surgery. This can vary based on the type of tummy tuck you've had. For more extensive procedures, expect to take off work for around four weeks.

It's generally advised to avoid bathing and swimming for the first month. Showering is fine, but avoid soaking the incision site or drying the skin vigorously.

Most doctors will instruct you to wear a special compression bandage for the first month, ideally for 23 hours a day. Doing so helps the treated area heal evenly and prevents blood clots. After the first month, you may be given a different compression bandage to wear during active days.

Recap

Avoid lifting objects that weigh more than 5 pounds for six weeks. For the first month, it is important to wear a compression bandage for around 23 hours a day.

Sleeping Position

Do not sleep on your stomach until you are no longer sore. You may find that sleeping with pillows under your back and head and/or under your knees may reduce discomfort.

This is known as the semi-Fowler's position and should be used for two weeks following surgery to avoid straining the incision site. Sleeping in a recliner is also often recommended since it puts less stress on the belly.

Resuming Sex

Most surgeons recommend that you wait at least two weeks (and up to four weeks) after a tummy tuck before having sex.

When engaging in sex, it may be best to stand straight or lie flat on your back rather than squatting, lifting your legs, or being on top. Even lying on your side may pose problems as it can cause you to arch your back, which extends and stretches the abdominal muscles.

Don't be embarrassed to speak with your surgeon about when it is safe to have sex again. And remember that sex is not just about intercourse. Until you are fully healed, mutual masturbation and oral sex may provide just as much pleasure.

Recap

Depending on the extent of your surgery, you should avoid sex for at least two weeks after a tummy tuck and up to four. Don't be afraid to ask your doctor when it is safe to resume sex.

Summary

It takes time and rest to properly heal after tummy tuck surgery. While you heal, you need to avoid squatting, lifting, or any action that places stress on the surgical area. Doing so may interfere with healing and cause scarring.

Depending on the extent of the surgery, you may need to wait between four to 10 weeks before returning to routine exercise. Start with strength training exercises for the upper body and legs, and don't start abdominal exercises until your doctor gives you the OK. If an exercise causes pain, ease back to avoid hurting yourself.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • When can I exercise after a tummy tuck?

    Most surgeons will tell you to wait at least four weeks before returning to an exercise routine. Even then, you may be advised to wait longer before doing crunches, planks, sit-ups, or weightlifting. Speak with your surgeon before starting any exercise plan.

  • What exercise should I do after a tummy tuck?

    It's important to get up and move within the first 24 hours of your surgery to lower the risk of complications of being sedentary, such as blood clots and urinary tract infections. After around two weeks, you can start light cardio exercises that raise your heart rate without stressing abdominal tissues. You can gradually incorporate leg and upper body strength training exercises that do not involve the abdominal muscles.

  • How soon after a tummy tuck can I have sex?

    Most surgeons will recommend that you wait four weeks after a tummy tuck before having sex. People with minimal correction and no muscle tightening may start earlier, but speak with your surgeon first just to be safe.

  • How soon after a tummy tuck can I fly?

    Most surgeons recommend waiting at least 10 days before getting on an airplane. With surgeries like this, there is a risk of blood clots developing in the legs, known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT). In some cases, the clot can dislodge and block blood flow in the lungs, referred to as a pulmonary embolism.

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6 Sources
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