When you get a tummy tuck, also known as an abdominoplasty, you reduce the amount of unwanted fat and skin in your abdominal area. Perhaps your stomach hasn’t responded to diet or exercise or maybe you’re doing it as part of a “mommy makeover.” Whatever your reasoning, most patients are absolutely thrilled with their results.
That said, one of the factors that help to maintain these excellent results is returning to a regular exercise routine. Whether you enjoy going to the gym or participating in workout classes like Pilates, you’ll want to resume this once it’s safe to do so after surgery. Physical exercise helps to reduce your chance of weight gain while toning your new abdomen. Nonetheless, it’s important to remember that getting back to the gym must be done gently as too much activity can cause more harm than good. Here are the steps to follow when returning to the gym after a tummy tuck.
Listen to your doctor
Doing any physical activity before you’ve healed can cause damage to your body. Be sure to talk to your doctor about what you should expect during your recovery. They can tell you how long you should wait before returning to the gym or a group workout class like Pilates. It’s important to ask your doctor because the answer can vary based on a number of factors. These include:
- Your condition prior to surgery
- Your personal surgical experience
- The physical demands of your job
- How your body is recovering
For example, an Olympic athlete would likely be able to return to exercise sooner than a mother who recently had multiples and wasn’t able to exercise frequently leading up to surgery. Trust your doctor’s advice and allow your body to heal first and foremost.
Move around carefully
It may surprise you how much the tummy tuck surgery impacts you in the first 24 hours. In fact, it can often be difficult for physically fit people to perform simple tasks like sitting up in bed or moving around. That said, it’s important to move around a little bit in those first 24 hours because it can help increase blood circulation. Having someone available to help you move around and perform tasks will help this portion of the recovery.
Additionally, sleep is often an unforeseen obstacle for individuals in the initial days of recovery. Lying flat stretches the abdomen and puts a strain on the freshly-stitched skin. Thus, it’s often best to lie in a slightly bent position like that of a recliner. You can also follow the advice of your surgeon regarding the use of compression garments during sleep as these can help to reduce inflammation.
Eat well to fuel your body
In addition to resting, you’ll want to eat well and fuel your body with the right foods to aid your recovery. Your goal should be to rest and recovery, so you can return to your normal routine (the gym being among those activities). Drinking water, eating protein-packed foods, and getting your vitamins are essential steps. You should also avoid salt, soda, and alcohol immediately following a tummy tuck. Here are two great recipes that can help you on the road to recovery:
- Baked Lemon Butter Tilapia
- This is a lean fish, which is a great source of protein.
- Easy Overnight Oats
- This is an excellent source of carbs to restore body strength, and it’s also a low maintenance food that doesn’t require a lot of prep during recovery.
Perform light cardiovascular activity
Roughly two weeks after your tummy tuck, you’ll likely be able to begin performing a light cardiovascular activity. Again, consult with your doctor to ensure this is the right plan for you and your body. You should begin with activities that raise your heart rate but don’t directly engage your abdomen. Consider walking, doing the elliptical, or stationary cycling.
Strengthen other muscles but avoid your abdomen initially
One week after this (around the 3-week post-surgery mark), you should be able to perform strengthening exercises in addition to cardiovascular activity. You’ll still want to avoid heavy lifting at this time. If this was a mommy makeover, remember that you’re still not supposed to lift small children or babies during your tummy tuck recovery. That said, you can start to reintegrate light strengthening and cardio activities.
Start working out your abs
Ready to work out those abs?! Roughly 5 to 6 weeks post-surgery, your doctor may clear you to officially start working out your abs. This is when you can begin to incorporate yoga and Pilates into your routine. Even as you begin to use your ab muscles again, it’s crucial that you ease back into these exercises. Your goal should be to strengthen your muscles while utilizing the correct form. You should still resist any heavy lifting or exercises that target abdominal muscle until your physician explicitly tells you that you can return to your workout routine.
Remember, while you may feel anxious to hop back into it all at once, starting slow and setting reasonable goals for your body will help you to properly recover. Otherwise, you can cause damage to your body and delay your return to the gym for even longer.
Resume your normal workout routine
You’re finally ready to return to your pre-surgery workout routine around 7-10 weeks. Now you can finally return to abdomen work like situps, crunches, planks, etc. Start slow and progressively increase your repetition. Be sure to listen to your body during this time and stop if anything does not feel right.
There you have it! Getting back to the gym or your work out class after you’ve had a tummy tuck can be a slow process. However, it’s essential to let your body heal properly. Rushing recovery can lead to greater problems, so consult your doctor and be conservative initially. Once you begin working those exercises back into your routine, you’ll love your results even more.
Submitted by David Miller FRSA