Exercising After Breast Augmentation: Your Questions, Answered

Athletic woman doing squats in workout clothes

So many of my breast augmentation patients from Fort Myers, Punta Gorda, and Naples, Florida, lead healthy, active lifestyles. As a physician, I would be remiss if I didn’t say that I think exercise is wonderful—but it’s important to know when to say when, especially after surgery. I wanted to use this blog post as a way to help prospective breast augmentation patients understand when they can start exercising after surgery, as well as why the restrictions are in place.

So…what happens if patients exercise too soon? Although exercise is generally good for our mental and physical health, participating too soon after surgery can have several different effects. After breast augmentation, the new implants need to settle into their new positions undisturbed. Excessive, vigorous movement can disrupt this process and cause implant malposition. Raising your heart rate can cause swelling and excessive bloodflow to your breasts, resulting in bruising. And of course, there’s the pain factor. Discomfort is a given after any type of surgery, but you can minimize yours by resting until your breasts are mostly healed.

When can patients start exercising again? The answer to this question is pretty variable, but I’ll try to break down the timeline by sport or activity. Remember that each patient is different, as is each surgery. If you feel pain or discomfort during a certain activity, stop and try again in a couple of days. The postsurgical period is not the time to test yourself or adopt a “no pain, no gain” mentality. With that being said, let’s take a look at my recommendations:

  • Walking: This is the first post-surgery activity of most patients. I encourage short, easy walks around the house as early as the day of surgery. On day 2 or 3, you may want to take longer—but still slow—strolls. This helps reduce the risk of blood clots and combats cabin fever.
  • Cardio: Intermediate cardio that gets your blood pumping but is still fairly easy can be resumed after 3 weeks or so. More intense cardio, the medium to high impact type that really works up a sweat, should be postponed for at least 6 weeks after your surgery.
  • Strength training: For the first few weeks after your surgery, you should avoid lifting anything more than a few pounds, and certainly not weights. You can get back to a lower-body strength routine after 1 month. But upper-body strength training needs to wait for at least 2 months after surgery. Excessive, unnecessary muscle activity in the chest and arms can significantly alter your results and prolong the healing process. Don’t risk it—give yourself a break, and ask for help with lifting things at home and work, too.
  • Swimming: Because swimming typically uses a lot of upper-body strength, the same guidelines apply here—wait at least 2 months before treading water or swimming laps. However, it’s safe to submerge your breasts in the tub after about 3 weeks.
  • Sports: There’s a lot of variance between sports, so use the guidelines I mentioned in the previous exercises to help you determine how much downtime you’ll need to take. If you play a contact sport, remember that today’s breast implants were designed to be compatible with all manner of lifestyles. However, while these devices are tough, they’re not invincible. If a direct impact to your chest is possible, wear protective gear if at all possible.

What should patients wear when they work out? Once enough time has elapsed and it’s time to get back to your favorite activities, support is key. Be sure to try on a variety of sports bras, as sizes can vary between brands. Take it for a test drive in the dressing room—bend over, jump up and down, twist, and reach your arms over your head. Your new breasts should feel snugly supported no matter what position you’re in, and the bra shouldn’t ride up or dig into your skin.

Keep in mind that the guidelines here are just that—guidelines. Your own comfort and level of fitness are far more important factors in your recovery timeline.

For an in-depth look at the breast augmentation procedure, read this previous blog post. If you’d like to see before and after images of my actual patients, visit my online photo gallery.

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