Medically Reviewed April 2023, by George Samouris - Consultant Aesthetic Plastic Surgeon
Tummy tuck surgery, or abdominoplasty is a technique where excess fat and skin is removed from the abdomen and the underlying muscle tissue is tightened. This process provides patients, both male and female, with a more aesthetically desirable appearance, and improved confidence following significant weight-loss.
If you have undergone tummy tuck surgery or are considering the procedure, you’ll need to be aware of what to expect during the recovery period. Exercise is an essential element of a healthy lifestyle and is crucial in the maintenance of abdominoplasty results.
Whilst this is true, it is important to be aware of and adhere to the recommendations around activity and exercise during the recovery period. Here we will cover the details of exercise following tummy tuck, when it is safe to return to your usual exercise routine and suitable exercises that can help to maintain activity levels safely.
Your Harley Medical Group Surgeon will work with you on a person-centred basis to formulate a recovery plan and provide a more specific timeline for you to plan around.
As a guide, recovery time usually ranges from 6 to 8 weeks. You can read our tummy tuck recovery guide here.
Although it can be tempting to return to normality soon after surgery, it is important to allow your body enough time and space to rest, avoid any postoperative complications and achieve the best possible results, and exercise restriction is an important part of this.
Following abdominoplasty, even the simplest of tasks may place excessive strain on the healing tissues of the abdomen and disrupt the recovery process. It is essential that any activities involving overreaching, bending or twisting are avoided for at least 4 weeks. However, mobility is essential following surgery, so walking short distances with support, even on the day of surgery, is recommended.
Any strenuous cardiovascular exercise like jogging, running, cycling or competitive sports must be avoided for between 4 and 6 weeks following surgery. For many patients, walking is a helpful way to maintain activity levels as much as possible.
Any form of resistance training involving the abdominal muscles, such as crunches, sit-ups, Russian twists or plank positions must be avoided for at least 6 weeks or longer if advised by your surgeon. This is because, during the abdominoplasty procedure, the muscles of the abdomen are often adjusted and repaired and therefore need significant time to heal.
The amount of recovery time required before returning to weight training varies according to the level of fitness before surgery. If you were engaged in a regular weight lifting programme beforehand, it is likely that you will be able to return to this sooner than an individual who is weight training for the first time. In general, weight training should be avoided for the initial 6 weeks and be reintroduced incrementally thereafter to ensure a smooth transition. Initially, a weight lifting programme that isolates the arms and legs as much as possible is recommended. Importantly though, the weight must be reduced to avoid activation of the abdominal muscles during movements that target the arms and legs.
A mini tummy tuck is an excellent abdominoplasty alternative for those with excess skin below the belly button only. Although described as ‘mini’, the procedure is invasive and still requires a recovery period.
The length of the recovery depends on whether the abdominal muscles have been tightened during the procedure. If this is the case, exercise and any strenuous activity must be avoided for 4 to 6 weeks. If no changes have been made to the abdominal muscles and the surgery involved the removal of excess skin only, you may be able to return to strenuous activity sooner, once the incision site has healed.