Exercise after Surgery after Massive Weight Loss

By Dr Jake Lim – Plastic Surgeon | Updated: June 4, 2024

Guidelines for a Safe Return to Exercise after Excess Skin Removal Surgery

After undergoing significant weight loss and surgery, returning to exercise can be a critical component of your overall health journey. Exercise not only helps maintain weight loss results but can also contributes to improved physical and mental health. Engaging in physical activity can enhance muscle tone, increase energy levels, and boost mood. However, it’s important to approach post-surgery exercise with caution and a well-structured plan to ensure safety and effectiveness.

In this blog, Sydney Specialist Plastic Surgeon Dr Jake Lim aims to provide you with essential guidelines for safely resuming exercise after surgery after massive weight loss.

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Excess Skin Guide

Understanding Your Body’s New Limits

Post-surgery, your body composition will have changed significantly. You may have lost muscle mass along with fat, and your skin may be more delicate around surgical sites. Your new body composition may affect your stamina and strength, requiring modifications in your exercise routine. Being aware of these changes helps in creating an exercise plan that is both safe and effective.

Recognising Physical Limitations

Recognising your physical limitations is key to avoiding injuries and setbacks. Pay attention to any pain, discomfort, or unusual symptoms during exercise. It’s important to differentiate between normal post-exercise soreness and pain that could indicate a problem. Avoid pushing yourself too hard and focus on gradual progress. Listening to your body and adjusting your activities accordingly can help you stay on track without compromising your recovery.

Starting Slowly

Starting slowly is important for a safe and sustainable return to fitness. Begin with low-intensity exercises that you can perform comfortably. This might include walking, light stretching, or gentle yoga. Focus on establishing a regular exercise habit rather than intensity or duration. Short, consistent sessions are more beneficial than occasional long workouts. As you build your fitness level, you can gradually increase the intensity and complexity of your routines.

Gradual Increase in Intensity

A gradual increase in intensity helps prevent injury and allows your body to adapt to new demands. Follow the 10% rule, which suggests increasing your exercise intensity or duration by no more than 10% each week. This approach gives your body time to recover and strengthen between sessions. Monitor your progress and adjust your plan as needed, ensuring that you continue to challenge yourself without overdoing it. Patience and consistency are crucial for long-term success.

Setting Realistic Goals

Setting realistic short-term goals can provide motivation and a sense of achievement. Short-term goals should be specific, measurable, and attainable within a few weeks to a couple of months. Examples include walking for 30 minutes a day, increasing your daily step count, or completing a series of gentle stretching exercises. These goals help you build a foundation for more advanced activities while ensuring that you are not overexerting yourself.

Setting Long-Term Goals

Long-term goals give you a direction for your fitness journey and help maintain focus over time. These goals should align with your overall health objectives, such as maintaining weight loss, improving cardiovascular health, or increasing muscle strength. Long-term goals might include participating in a 5k walk, lifting a certain amount of weight, or mastering a new fitness skill. Setting both short-term and long-term goals creates a balanced approach to your return to exercise, ensuring steady progress and sustained motivation.

Creating a Customised Exercise Plan

Creating a customised exercise plan involves considering several factors unique to your situation. These include your current fitness level, the type of surgery you had, your recovery progress, and any medical conditions. It’s important to select exercises that suit your abilities and recovery stage. For instance, if you had abdominal surgery, you might need to avoid exercises that put too much strain on your core initially. Tailoring your exercise plan ensures that it meets your specific needs and promotes a safe return to fitness.

Working with a Personal Trainer

Working with a personal trainer can be beneficial, especially if they have experience with post-surgery clients. A knowledgeable trainer can help you develop a safe and effective exercise plan, demonstrate proper techniques, and provide ongoing support and motivation. They can adjust your routine as you progress, ensuring that you continue to challenge yourself without risking injury. A personal trainer can also help you stay accountable and consistent with your workouts, which is crucial for long-term success.

Body Lift — Front View
Body Lift — Front View

Types of Exercises to Consider

  • Cardiovascular exercises are essential for improving heart health, boosting energy levels, and aiding in weight maintenance. Activities such as walking, cycling, and swimming are excellent choices for post-surgery exercise. These low-impact options reduce the risk of injury while still providing significant cardiovascular benefits. Start with short sessions, such as 10-15 minutes, and gradually increase the duration and intensity as your endurance improves. Cardiovascular exercises should be a core component of your fitness routine. They not only improve heart health but can also enhance lung capacity, lower blood pressure, and help in managing weight by burning calories.
  • Walking is one of the most accessible forms of cardiovascular exercise. It’s gentle on the joints and can be easily adjusted to your pace and fitness level. Start with short, manageable walks around your neighbourhood or on a treadmill. As your stamina increases, you can extend your walking distance and incorporate more challenging routes with slight inclines.
  • Cycling, whether on a stationary bike or outdoors, is another excellent option. It provides a good workout for the lower body while being easy on the knees and hips. Start with a low resistance setting on a stationary bike or choose flat, smooth paths if cycling outdoors. Gradually increase the resistance or the difficulty of your routes to continue challenging yourself.
  • Swimming and water aerobics are particularly beneficial post-surgery. The buoyancy of the water supports your body, reducing stress on joints and muscles while allowing for a full-body workout. Swimming can help improve cardiovascular endurance, muscle strength, and flexibility simultaneously. Water aerobics classes often provide structured exercise routines that can be modified to suit your fitness level.

Strength Training

  • Strength training helps build muscle mass, increase metabolism, and improve overall body strength. It’s important to start with light weights or resistance bands and focus on proper form. Strength training exercises should target all major muscle groups, but be mindful of any areas affected by surgery. For example, if you had surgery on your lower body, start with upper body exercises and gradually incorporate lower body workouts as you heal.
  • Begin with basic exercises such as bicep curls, shoulder presses, and seated rows for the upper body. Use light weights or resistance bands to perform these exercises, ensuring that you maintain good posture and control throughout each movement. As you become more comfortable and your strength improves, you can increase the weight or resistance slightly.
  • For lower body strength training, start with exercises like seated leg presses, calf raises, and gentle squats. If you’re recovering from lower body surgery, ensure that these movements are pain-free and do not strain the surgical area. Gradually increase the intensity of these exercises as your recovery progresses.
  • Strength training sessions should be done two to three times a week with rest days in between to allow your muscles to recover. Incorporate compound exercises that work multiple muscle groups simultaneously, such as deadlifts and bench presses, as you advance. These exercises provide a more efficient workout and help build functional strength.

Flexibility and Balance Exercises

Flexibility and balance exercises are important for maintaining mobility and preventing falls.

Activities such as yoga, Pilates, and gentle stretching can improve flexibility, enhance balance, and reduce stiffness. These exercises can also promote relaxation and reduce stress, contributing to overall well-being. Incorporate flexibility and balance exercises into your routine at least a few times a week to maintain and improve your range of motion.

  • Yoga offers a holistic approach to fitness, combining physical postures with breath control and meditation. It helps increase flexibility, strength, and balance while promoting mental relaxation. Start with beginner-friendly poses and gradually progress to more advanced postures as your flexibility improves. Consider taking a class with a certified yoga instructor who can guide you through the poses and ensure that you are performing them correctly.
  • Pilates focuses on core strength, flexibility, and overall body conditioning. It involves controlled movements that improve posture, balance, and muscle tone. Pilates exercises can be done on a mat or using specialised equipment like a reformer. Begin with basic exercises that target the core muscles, such as pelvic tilts and leg lifts, and gradually incorporate more challenging movements as your strength and coordination improve.

Gentle stretching exercises can be done daily to maintain flexibility and prevent muscle tightness. Focus on major muscle groups, including the neck, shoulders, back, hips, and legs. Hold each stretch for 20-30 seconds and perform them slowly to avoid overstretching. Stretching after your workouts can help cool down your muscles and reduce the risk of injury.

Balance exercises are particularly important for preventing falls and improving stability. Simple exercises such as standing on one leg, heel-to-toe walking, and using a balance board can enhance your balance and coordination. Incorporate these exercises into your routine to build a strong foundation of stability that supports all other forms of physical activity.

FAQs about Exercise after Surgery after Massive Weight Loss


How soon after surgery can I start exercising?

  • The timeline for returning to exercise after surgery varies depending on the type of surgery and your individual recovery progress. Generally, most people can start with light activities, such as walking, within a few days to a couple of weeks post-surgery. However, it’s important to get medical clearance from Dr Jake Lim before beginning any exercise routine. He will assess your healing and provide specific guidelines tailored to your situation.

What are some signs that I might be overdoing my exercise routine post-surgery?

  • Signs that you might be overexerting yourself include persistent fatigue, increased pain or discomfort, swelling around the surgical area, shortness of breath, dizziness, or an elevated heart rate that doesn’t return to normal after resting. If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to scale back your activity level and consult with Dr Lim to ensure you’re not putting undue stress on your body during recovery.

Can I incorporate high-impact exercises into my routine after surgery?

  • High-impact exercises, such as running, jumping, or intense aerobic workouts, should generally be avoided in the initial stages of post-surgery recovery. These activities can place excessive strain on your joints and surgical sites, potentially causing injury or delaying healing. Once you have built up your strength and endurance with low-impact exercises and have Dr Lim’s approval, you can gradually introduce higher-impact activities if they align with your fitness goals and physical capabilities.

How can I stay motivated to exercise regularly after surgery?

  • Staying motivated can be challenging, but setting both short-term and long-term goals can help keep you on track. Tracking your progress through an exercise journal or fitness app, celebrating small achievements, and finding a workout buddy or support group can provide additional encouragement. Varying your exercise routine to include activities you enjoy and incorporating fun challenges can also make the process more engaging and enjoyable.

Are there specific dietary recommendations to follow when resuming exercise after surgery?

  • Post-surgery nutrition is vital for recovery and supporting your exercise regimen. Focus on a balanced diet rich in lean proteins, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Proteins are essential for muscle repair and growth, while a variety of vitamins and minerals support overall health and healing. Staying hydrated is equally important, especially when you increase your physical activity.

Further Reading about Plastic Surgery after Massive Weight Loss

Medical References about Surgery after Massive Weight Loss

About Dr Jake Lim

Highly qualified and experienced specialist plastic surgeon Dr Jake Lim focuses on facial plastic, cosmetic breast and body contouring after significant weight loss

Dr Lim creates the best possible plastic surgery results for his Australia-wide and international patients.

Dr Lim is passionate about making sure each and every patient has access to the right information about available treatments and procedures and is able to make well-informed decisions.

At My Klinik, patient safety, education and achieving optimal results are our top priorities.