How Long Should You Wait To Work Out After Surgery?

While it's understandable to feel a sense of urgency to return to your normal life and regular workout routine after you've had surgery, getting back to the gym too soon could slow you down in the long run — or worse.

"You think you can do everything," Gregg Saggio, general surgeon and assistant professor at NYIT College of Osteopathic Medicine, tells WebMD about people who've undergone recent procedures. "You think you're better than you are, you eat too much too quickly, you go up steps too fast, you go out and drive, and you get bounced around." Saggio knows this first-hand after pushing himself too soon following surgery for diverticular disease. "Stick to what your doctor tells you," Saggio says. "Don't overdo it because you will have setbacks, especially with heavy lifting." Before you take any chances, WebMD advises that you get a list of post-surgery exercise "dos and don'ts" from your doctor — and adhere to them.

Recovery time will depend on the type of surgery

The type surgery you've undergone will dictate your recovery period, as well as the temporary modifications you may need to make to accommodate your healing process. For instance, if you've just had an appendectomy, Livestrong advises against engaging in any strenuous activity for up to two weeks, noting that lifting activities will be particularly restricted. Short walks will be important to prevent blood clots, but check with your doctor about what other kind of exercise is safe to start. 

And if you're recovering from breast cancer surgery, warns that engaging in rigorous exercise too soon, especially anything involving the upper body, could aggravate stitches and compromise drains. Your doctor will likely prescribe specific physical therapy exercises to maintain mobility in your shoulders and upper arm as part of your healing process; however, when you're ready to engage in more demanding exercises, be prepared to start slowly, and to also feel some fatigue, pain, and muscle weakness due to the effects of the surgery.

Following any surgery, always consult with your doctor about the safest way to re-incorporate exercise back into your daily routine. If ever in doubt, listen to your body and give it the rest it needs. The treadmill will still be there tomorrow.