When to Resume Exercise after Breast Lift (Mastopexy)

The period following your surgery is a time of adjustment, both physically and emotionally. It’s important to set realistic expectations for your recovery and to be patient with yourself as your body heals. A breast lift (mastopexy) requires careful post-operative care to ensure optimal results. This includes adhering to guidelines on physical activity, which plays a significant role in how quickly and effectively you recover. Understanding the recovery timeline and what you can do at each stage to support your healing is fundamental. Sydney Specialist Plastic Surgeon Dr Jake Lim aims to provide you with insights into resuming exercise after a breast lift, offering tips and advice on how to do so safely and effectively. From the immediate post-surgery period through the following weeks and months, he’ll explore how you can manage discomfort, reduce the risk of complications, and ultimately achieve optimal results from your breast lift.

Download Dr Lim’s 2024 Breast Lift Surgery Guide

Breast Lift Guide

What to Expect Immediately after Surgery

The first 24 to 48 hours after your breast lift (mastopexy) surgery are critical for setting the tone of your recovery journey. Physical reactions such as discomfort, swelling, and bruising are common and expected responses as your body begins to heal.

In the immediate aftermath of surgery, it’s important to keep physical activity to a minimum. This means avoiding any lifting, straining, or bending over, as these actions can increase blood pressure in the chest area and potentially cause bleeding or damage to the surgical site. Walking at a gentle pace is encouraged as it helps promote blood circulation, reducing the risk of blood clots.

The First Week after Mastopexy

The first week after your breast lift is a time of careful observation and gentle care towards your body as it embarks on the initial stages of healing. This period is important for ensuring your recovery starts on the right foot, focusing on minimising activities that could stress your body and paying close attention to the healing process.

  • Activities to Avoid: During the first week, it’s essential to avoid any strenuous activities or heavy lifting that could strain your chest area or disrupt the healing incisions. Activities such as driving, jogging, or any form of vigorous exercise should be put on hold. The goal is to prevent any movement that might increase swelling or cause the sutures to open
  • Tips for a Comfortable Recovery: Comfort should be your priority during this phase. Arrange your living space so that necessities are within easy reach, minimising the need to stretch or bend. Sleeping in a semi-upright position can also help reduce swelling and discomfort. If possible, prepare meals ahead of your surgery or arrange for assistance with meal preparation to avoid the need for extensive time standing or cooking

Weeks 2-4 of the Recovery after Mastopexy / Breast Lift

As you move into the weeks following your breast lift, you’ll begin to notice some changes in how you feel and what you’re able to do. This period is marked by a gradual transition towards more normal activities, with an emphasis on careful reintroduction of physical movements to support your recovery.

  • Safe Exercises to Begin With: Between the second and fourth weeks, you can start incorporating light activities back into your routine. Walking at a comfortable pace is highly recommended, as it promotes blood circulation without putting undue stress on your healing tissues. It’s crucial, however, to listen to your body and avoid pushing yourself too hard. If you experience any discomfort or excessive fatigue, take it as a sign to slow down
  • Monitoring Your Body’s Response: As you gradually increase your activity level, pay close attention to how your body responds. Some swelling and discomfort might persist, especially after activity, but these should be manageable and gradually decrease over time. If you notice an increase in swelling or pain, particularly after introducing a new activity, it may be a sign to reduce your activity level and consult Dr Lim
  • Introducing Light Upper Body Movements: Depending on Dr Lim’s advice, you may be able to start doing some gentle upper body movements. This could include light arm stretches and mobility exercises to help maintain flexibility without straining your chest muscles. It’s essential to avoid lifting anything heavy or doing strenuous upper body workouts during this period
  • Engaging in Non-Impact Cardio: If you’re feeling up to it, and with Dr Lim’s consent, you might also start engaging in non-impact cardio activities, such as using a stationary bike. These exercises can help maintain your cardiovascular fitness without impacting your recovery negatively
  • Continued Focus on Recovery: It’s still important to continue wearing your compression garment if advised by Dr Lim, as it supports your breasts and reduces swelling. Keep up with your hydration and a balanced diet to aid your body’s healing process. Nutrients such as protein, vitamins, and minerals play a critical role in tissue repair and overall health during recovery
  • Adjusting Activities Based on Recovery: Each person’s recovery timeline is unique, and there’s no singular approach to resuming physical activity. It’s important to adjust based on your personal healing process and the guidance of Dr Lim. If you have any concerns or questions about what activities are appropriate for you at this stage, don’t hesitate to contact Dr Lim for advice

Exercise after Mastopexy / Breast Lift – One Month Post-Surgery

Reaching the one-month mark after your breast lift is a significant milestone in your recovery journey. By this time, you should notice considerable improvements in swelling, discomfort, and overall healing. This phase is crucial for evaluating your progress and potentially adjusting your activity levels based on how well you’ve healed.

  • Signs of Proper Healing: By now, the signs of proper healing should be evident. Your incisions may start to look less red and begin to fade, although they will continue to heal and change appearance over the next several months to a year. Any non-dissolvable sutures likely have been removed, and your breast shape should start to settle into its new contour. It’s normal for scars to appear darker before they gradually lighten
  • Adjusting Activities Based on Recovery: With Dr Lim’s approval, you might be able to resume more regular activities, including a return to work if your job doesn’t require heavy lifting or strenuous physical effort. Exercise routines can also be adjusted at this point, introducing more variety and slightly more intensity, but still avoiding high-impact activities that might stress the chest area or disrupt the healing process
  • Safe Exercises to Continue: Building on the light cardio and upper body movements from weeks 2-4, you can now incorporate more comprehensive exercises that focus on balance and strength without overexertion. Some low-impact aerobic exercises might be suitable, depending on how you feel and the advice of Dr Lim. It’s still important to listen to your body and stop any activity that causes discomfort or pain
  • Monitoring Your Body’s Signals: Even as you feel more capable, it’s essential to remain vigilant for any signs that you might be pushing too hard. Watch for increased swelling, redness, or any unusual changes around the incision sites, as these can be indicators of overexertion or complications. If you experience any of these symptoms, reduce your activity level and consult Dr Lim
  • Nutrition and Wellness: Continuing to focus on a balanced diet rich in nutrients that promote healing is important. Foods high in vitamin C, protein, and zinc can support tissue repair and overall health. Staying hydrated and getting enough rest are also critical as your body continues to heal and adjust to its new shape

Introducing Light Cardio

After a breast lift, reintroducing cardio exercises into your routine is a step towards regaining your fitness levels and promoting overall well-being. By the six week mark you can start integrating light cardio workouts, which are essential for enhancing circulation, reducing the risk of blood clots, and improving your mood and energy levels. However, it’s important to approach this phase with caution to avoid compromising your healing process.

  • Recommended Light Cardio Exercises: Opt for low-impact cardio exercises that do not involve vigorous movements or bouncing, which could strain your healing breasts. Walking at a brisk pace is often considered ideal because it’s easily adjustable to your comfort level and can be done anywhere. Other options include using a stationary bike. These activities elevate your heart rate without putting undue stress on your chest
  • How to Safely Increase Intensity: Initially, keep your cardio sessions short, around 10-15 minutes, and gradually increase the duration as you feel more comfortable. Pay attention to your body’s signals; if you experience any discomfort or swelling, it may indicate that you need to scale back and allow more time for healing. Always prioritise your body’s responses over a predetermined workout schedule
  • The Importance of a Structured Approach: Creating a structured plan for reintroducing cardio can help manage your recovery effectively. Begin with light intensity and short durations, gradually building up based on your comfort and recovery status. Consistency is key, but so is flexibility, allowing you to adjust based on how your body is healing
  • Listen to Your Body: This phase requires you to be in tune with your body more than ever. Signs like increased swelling, discomfort, or any unusual symptoms should prompt you to ease up and consult Dr Lim. It’s essential to remember that healing from surgery is the priority, and while cardio is beneficial for your health, it shouldn’t compromise your recovery

Strength Exercises after Breast Lift: Dos and Don’ts

As you navigate the recovery process from a breast lift, incorporating strength exercises into your routine can support your overall physical health and aid in maintaining the results of your surgery. However, it’s imperative to approach this phase with caution, understanding which exercises are beneficial and which could potentially hinder your recovery:

Safe Strength Exercises for the Upper Body

Initially, focus on exercises that do not directly strain the chest or surgical areas. Begin with light resistance and exercises that strengthen your back, shoulders, and arms without involving the pectoral muscles aggressively. Examples include:

  • Seated rowing: Using a resistance band or a low setting on a cable machine, focus on squeezing your shoulder blades together to strengthen the upper back without overloading the chest
  • Arm curls: With light weights, arm curls can help maintain arm strength and are generally safe, provided they do not cause discomfort in the chest area
  • Leg and core exercises: While these are not upper body exercises, strengthening your legs and core can improve overall stability and support a balanced physique, which indirectly benefits your recovery and posture

Exercises to Avoid until Fully Healed

It’s important to avoid exercises that place direct pressure or strain on the chest until you have fully recovered and received clearance from Dr Lim. These include:

  • Push-ups and chest presses: These exercises directly engage the chest muscles and can disrupt the healing process if done too soon
  • High-intensity interval training (HIIT): Such workouts often include movements that are too vigorous for early post-surgery recovery
  • Heavy lifting: Avoid lifting anything heavy, including dumbbells or barbells, that strains the chest or upper body

As your recovery progresses, you can slowly increase the intensity of your workouts. Always ensure that any increase in weights or resistance is gradual and accompanied by a keen awareness of how your body responds. If you experience any discomfort, it’s a signal to reduce the intensity or to consult Dr Lim.

Core Workouts after Breast Lift

Focusing on core strength post-breast lift surgery is a strategic step in supporting your overall recovery and enhancing your physical stability and posture. The core muscles play a vital role in almost every movement your body makes and in maintaining the integrity of your upper body posture. Effective core training can aid in a quicker recovery by improving blood circulation, enhancing stability and balance, and reducing the risk of strain on your healing incisions.

Safe Core Exercises

In the weeks following your surgery, once you’ve received clearance from Dr Lim, you can begin incorporating gentle core exercises that do not put pressure on your chest or disrupt the healing process. These exercises include:

  • Pelvic tilts: Lying on your back with your knees bent, gently arch your lower back and then flatten it against the floor. This movement engages the core without straining the upper body
  • Leg slides: Start in the same position as the pelvic tilts. Slowly slide one leg out until it’s straight, then draw it back in. Repeat with the other leg, keeping your core engaged and your lower back pressed to the floor
  • Seated ball or chair twists: Sitting upright on a stability ball or chair, gently twist your torso to the left and then to the right, keeping the movement controlled and avoiding any strain on the chest area

The Role of Core Strength in Recovery

Strengthening your core contributes to better posture, which is particularly important as your body adjusts to the changes from your breast lift. A strong core helps distribute the weight of your upper body more evenly, reducing the risk of back pain and supporting the healing process. Moreover, engaging your core muscles can help in regaining balance and stability, which may be temporarily affected post-surgery.

As your recovery advances, you can gradually introduce more challenging core exercises, always mindful of how your body responds. Incorporate exercises that engage multiple core muscles, such as planks or modified yoga poses, ensuring you do not experience discomfort in your surgical area.

Lower Body Workouts – Guidelines and Tips

Focusing on lower body workouts helps maintain an active lifestyle while avoiding stress on the healing breast area. Activities that strengthen the legs, hips, and glutes can also indirectly support upper body recovery by promoting good posture and reducing the risk of compensatory injuries caused by over-reliance on the upper body during recovery.

When reintroducing lower body exercises, start with movements that are low impact and do not require sudden, jerky, or extensive upper body movements. Examples include:

  • Squats and lunges: Begin with bodyweight squats and lunges to ensure proper form and avoid putting unnecessary strain on your upper body. Keep movements slow and controlled
  • Leg presses: Using a leg press machine allows you to strengthen your thighs and glutes while seated, reducing the risk of engaging your chest muscles
  • Walking and stationary cycling: These are excellent for improving circulation and can be adjusted to your comfort and fitness level

Guidelines for Safe Exercise

  • Start slowly: Gradually introduce lower body workouts into your routine, beginning with shorter, less intense sessions and slowly increasing the duration and intensity based on your comfort and recovery status
  • Avoid heavy lifting: Initially, steer clear of exercises that involve heavy weights or significant resistance that might inadvertently put pressure on your upper body
  • Monitor your body’s response: Pay close attention to how your body reacts to these exercises, particularly any signs of discomfort, increased swelling, or pain in the breast area, and adjust your activity accordingly

Yoga and Stretching – Benefits for Recovery

Integrating yoga and stretching into your post-breast lift recovery routine can offer significant benefits, including enhanced flexibility, improved circulation, and reduced stress. These gentle forms of exercise are excellent for easing back into physical activity while supporting the healing process. Make sure to approach yoga and stretching of your upper body with caution, especially in the early stages of recovery, to ensure that movements do not strain the healing tissues or interfere with the results of your surgery.

  • Safe Yoga Poses and Stretches: In the initial weeks following your surgery, focus on gentle stretches that do not involve raising your arms above your head or putting pressure on your chest. Leg stretches, gentle seated twists, and hip openers can also be incorporated to maintain flexibility without impacting your upper body
  • How Flexibility Aids in Recovery: Engaging in gentle stretching and yoga of the lower body can help maintain muscle flexibility, reduce stiffness, and improve your range of motion during the recovery process. Additionally, these activities can promote blood flow to the tissues, aiding in the healing process and reducing swelling. The breathing techniques practiced in yoga can also be incredibly beneficial, helping to reduce stress and promote a sense of well-being, which is vital for a healthy recovery

FAQs about Exercise after Breast Lift


How soon after my breast lift surgery can I start exercising again?

  • The timeline for resuming exercise after a breast lift varies depending on the individual’s healing process and the complexity of the surgery. Generally, light walking is encouraged after surgery to promote circulation and prevent blood clots. More strenuous activities, especially those involving the upper body, may need to be postponed for at least 6 weeks. It’s crucial to follow Dr Lim’s specific advice regarding when and how to reintroduce various types of exercise.

What types of exercises are safe to do in the first few weeks after surgery?

  • In the first few weeks post-surgery, focus on maintaining light, low-impact activities such as gentle walking. Avoid any exercise that involves bouncing, running, or lifting heavy weights. Gentle lower body exercises, like slow-paced stationary biking without resistance, may also be appropriate. Always consult with Dr Lim before starting any new exercise to ensure it’s safe for your stage of recovery.

Can exercise affect the results of my breast lift?

  • Properly managed, exercise should not negatively affect the results of your breast lift. Engaging in vigorous or high-impact activities too soon can lead to complications such as increased swelling, discomfort, or even alterations to the shape of your breasts. It’s essential to gradually reintroduce exercise and closely follow Dr Lim’s guidelines to preserve the outcomes of your surgery.

Are there any exercises I should avoid after a breast lift?

  • Yes, in the initial weeks and sometimes months following your surgery, you should avoid exercises that significantly engage or stretch the chest muscles, such as push-ups, chest presses, and certain yoga poses. High-impact exercises that involve running or jumping should also be avoided until Dr Lim gives you the clear. Always get approval from Dr Lim before incorporating these types of exercises back into your routine.

How will I know if I’m pushing myself too hard with exercise after my breast lift?

  • Your body will give you signals if you’re pushing too hard. These may include increased pain, swelling, or changes in the incision sites, such as reopening of the wounds or unusual discharge. If exercising causes any of these symptoms, stop immediately and consult with Dr Lim. It’s important to listen to your body and differentiate between normal post-exercise soreness and discomfort that signifies harm or excessive strain on your healing tissues.

Further Reading about Breast Lift Surgery with Sydney Plastic Surgeon Dr Jake Lim

Medical References about Breast Lift

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