Tummy tuck surgery is performed to enhance abdominal contour. It removes redundant skin and soft tissues. It also tightens the underlying abdominal wall muscles, which have often developed a separation – called a rectus diastasis – following fluctuations in weight and pregnancies. Patients are often eager to return as soon as possible to exercise after tummy tuck to achieve further improvements in body contour. A common question from patients is “When can I return to exercise after tummy tuck?”.
Refraining from exercise after tummy tuck is generally recommended for 6 weeks. Following this timeline is a safe approach for most patients to lower the risk of developing these four complications:
Wound separation (dehiscence)
- The incisions for a tummy tuck extend along the lower abdomen from hip to hip and around the belly button. Both superficial and deep stitches are placed to secure the tissues in position as healing occurs. The stitches generally dissolve over several months. Avoiding exercise for 6 weeks is important as immature wound healing takes place. This avoids increased tension at the wound edges and lowers the risk of incisions partially opening.
- In addition to the visible incisions, a large surface area is operated on during tummy tuck surgery. The abdominal skin and soft tissues are undermined to the level of the ribcage and then redraped. This plane of dissection is meticulously cauterized, which heats up large and small blood vessels to stop surgical bleeding. It is important to avoid exercise after tummy tuck – both core and cardio workouts – to reduce risk of post-operative bleeding. Any activity which increases one’s heart rate or blood pressure, even if not specifically targeting the abdominal wall muscles, may increase the risk of bleeding for several weeks following tummy tuck.
Disruption of the muscle repair site
- Multiple stitches are placed to correct and reinforce the gap between the abdominal muscles. It takes time for this muscle repair to be able to withstand the forces of muscle contraction during core exercises. It is important to rest these muscles as healing occurs to lower the risk of stitches breaking or pulling through, which may lead to failure at the muscle repair site. If the muscle repair separates, patients may still demonstrate a round appearance of the abdomen following tummy tuck.
Fluid collection (seroma)
- A seroma is a collection of fluid between the abdominal wall muscles and the overlying skin and soft tissues. When the skin flap is undermined to the level of the ribcage, a large empty space is created which may fill with fluid. Small seromas are common following tummy tuck surgery. Most do not require treatment and gradually resorb over time. It is important to refrain from exercise after tummy tuck for 6 weeks to lower the risk of developing a large seroma, which may require treatment if symptomatic or if concerns arise regarding infection.
While healthy lifestyle choices are encouraged post-operatively, it is important to refrain from exercise after tummy tuck for 6 weeks to allow early healing to take place. This may lower the risk of developing wound healing complications, which could compromise both medical and aesthetic outcomes.
Please contact us if you are considering tummy tuck surgery. Dr. Power will make further recommendations for activity modifications tailored to your work requirements and personal exercise routine.