Your Guide to Exercise after Gynaecomastia Surgery

Resuming exercise after gynaecomastia surgery is an important aspect of your recovery process. You might want to get back to your regular fitness routine, but it’s important to understand the right time and way to do so. Rushing into exercise too soon can jeopardise your healing and the results of your surgery. In this blog, Sydney Plastic Surgeon Dr Jake Lim will guide you through the appropriate timeline for reintroducing exercise after gynaecomastia surgery.

Your Recovery Timeline: A Week-by-Week Guide

Remember, everyone heals at their own pace, and your experience might be slightly different. This timeline offers a general overview, but Dr Lim’s advice trumps any general guidelines.

Week 1

  • What to expect: This is the most crucial phase of your recovery. Expect noticeable swelling, some bruising around the incision areas, and likely some discomfort or pain. You might feel more tired than usual.
  • Activity level: Rest is paramount during this first week. Avoid any strenuous activity or heavy lifting (anything heavier than a gallon of milk).
  • Recommended exercises: Focus on gentle movements to promote blood circulation and prevent complications like blood clots:
    • Short, slow walks around your house. Do not raise your heart rate.
    • Deep breathing exercises
    • Gentle arm stretches, if comfortable and approved by Dr Lim
  • Important note: Keep your incisions clean and dry as instructed by Dr Lim to minimise the risk of infection.

Weeks 2-4

  • What to expect: You’ll see a gradual reduction in swelling and bruising. Discomfort should lessen, and you’ll start feeling more energetic.
  • Activity level: You can start incorporating light activities back into your routine, but don’t overdo it!
  • Recommended exercises:
    • Gradually increase the duration and pace of your walks. You might feel ready for a leisurely stroll around the block.
    • Introduce very light cardio, like walking in a slow pace.
    • Light household chores can be beneficial, but avoid anything requiring lifting, pushing, or pulling heavy objects.
  • Important note: Avoid any exercises that put strain on your chest or upper body. No lifting weights, push-ups, or pulling exercises just yet.

Weeks 4-6

  • What to expect: By now, you’ll notice significant improvement in your range of motion and energy levels. You’ll feel stronger overall.
  • Activity level: This is when you can start thinking about gradually reintroducing light resistance training, but always with Dr Lim’s approval.
  • Recommended exercises:
    • Continue with your walking and light cardio routine.
    • Dr Lim might clear you to begin very light strength training. Start with bodyweight exercises or extremely light dumbbells (think 1-2 kg). Focus on proper form and controlled movements.
    • Examples of suitable exercises: Wall push-ups, chair squats, very light bicep curls, and triceps extensions.
  • Important note: It’s still crucial to avoid any exercises that directly engage your chest muscles or put strain on the healing tissues. Don’t be afraid to start small and progress slowly.

Weeks 6-8 and Beyond

  • What to expect: Most of the healing is complete. You should have regained a significant portion of your strength and stamina.
  • Activity level: You can gradually return to your previous exercise routine, but continue to be mindful of your body’s signals.
  • Recommended exercises:
    • Gradually increase the intensity and duration of your cardio workouts.
    • Gradually increase the weight you lift during strength training sessions.
    • You might be cleared to participate in activities like swimming or sports, but always check with Dr Lim first.
  • Important note: Even though you’re feeling much better, it’s important to avoid pushing yourself too hard, too soon. Listen to your body. If you feel pain, discomfort, or excessive fatigue, stop and rest.
Gynaecomastia Patient 2 — Front View
Gynaecomastia Patient 2 — Front View

Why Gradual Progression is Important after Gynaecomastia Surgery

Imagine this: you wouldn’t run a marathon without proper training, right? Recovering from surgery and easing back into exercise is quite similar. It requires a strategic, patient approach.

Here’s why a gradual progression is so important:

  • Your Body is Healing: Even though you might feel up to intense workouts, remember that your body is still actively healing internally. The tissues need time to knit back together, and pushing too hard too soon can disrupt this delicate process.
  • Preventing Setbacks: Imagine getting back to the gym, feeling super motivated, and going all out… only to end up with increased pain, swelling, and needing to take extra rest days. This is a setback, and a gradual approach helps you avoid it.
  • Minimising Strain on Healing Tissues: Your chest and surrounding areas have undergone significant change. Gradual progression allows these tissues to adapt to increasing demands without becoming overwhelmed and inflamed.
  • Long-Term Success: Building a solid foundation through gradual progression sets you up for long-term success in your fitness journey. It’s about working with your body, not against it.

What Happens When You Push Too Hard, Too Soon?

  • Increased Pain and Swelling: Overexertion can trigger your body’s inflammatory response, leading to increased pain, swelling, and discomfort in the chest area. This can be a sign that you’ve overdone it.
  • Risk of Injury: When your body isn’t ready for high-impact or intense activities, you’re at a higher risk of muscle strains, tears, or other injuries.
  • Delayed Healing: Instead of supporting your body’s natural healing process, pushing too hard can actually hinder it. Inflammation and stress on the tissues can slow down recovery.

Think of it this way, gradual progression is like turning the dial of your exercise intensity slowly and steadily, rather than flipping a switch from zero to one hundred. It’s about respecting your body’s limits and giving it the time it needs to recover fully and come back stronger.

What Exercises to Do and When After Gynaecomastia Surgery

Getting back to exercise after gynaecomastia surgery requires a phased approach. Here’s a closer look at the types of exercises and when it’s generally safe to incorporate them into your routine:


  • Timeline: Start with short, gentle walks around the house as early as a day or two after surgery, as long as Dr Lim gives you the okay.
  • Progression:
    • Week 1: Focus on short walks a few times a day, gradually increasing the distance each day as you feel able. Do not increase your heart rate.
    • Week 2 onwards: Start incorporating longer walks at a slightly brisker pace. Aim for 30 minutes of walking most days of the week.
  • Benefits: Walking improves blood circulation, which helps reduce swelling and lowers the risk of blood clots. It’s also a gentle way to rebuild stamina and get moving again.

Light Cardio

  • Timeline: You can typically start incorporating light cardio around weeks 4-6, but always check with Dr Lim first.
  • Examples:
    • Stationary cycling at low resistance
    • Walking on a treadmill with a slight incline
  • Progression: Begin with short sessions (15-20 minutes) and gradually increase the duration and intensity as you feel stronger.
  • Important: Avoid high-impact activities like running, jumping, or burpees until at least 8-12 weeks post-op, or until cleared by Dr Lim. These activities put too much stress on your healing tissues.

Strength Training

  • Timeline: Light resistance training can usually begin around weeks 6, with Dr Lim’s approval.
  • Starting Point:
    • Begin with bodyweight exercises that don’t strain your chest, such as:
      • Squats
      • Lunges
      • Wall push-ups
      • Calf raises
    • If you’re cleared to use weights, start with very light dumbbells (1-2 kg) and focus on proper form over heavy lifting.
  • Progression: Gradually increase the weight, repetitions, or resistance as you feel your strength returning.
  • Exercises to Avoid Initially: Steer clear of exercises that directly engage your chest muscles or put pressure on your chest:
    • Bench press
    • Push-ups (standard)
    • Chest flies
    • Pull-ups or chin-ups

Contact Sports and High-Impact Activities

  • Timeline: These activities are usually off-limits for a minimum of 8-12 weeks after surgery, but Dr Lim will give you a more specific timeline based on your recovery.
  • Contact sports and high-impact activities significantly increase the risk of injury to your healing tissues and can potentially delay healing.
  • Examples:
    • Football, rugby, hockey
    • Running, jumping, plyometrics
    • Heavy weightlifting
    • Any activity with a high risk of impact or strain on the chest area

Remember that this is a general guideline. Dr Lim’s advice should always be your primary guide. Don’t hesitate to ask him any questions you have about specific exercises or activities.

Gynaecomastia Surgery with Dr Jake Lim
Gynaecomastia Patient 1 — Front View

Paying Attention to Your Body’s Signals

Think of your body as your own personal trainer – it’s constantly giving you feedback about what it needs. After gynaecomastia surgery, tuning into these signals is crucial for a safe and successful recovery.

Here’s how to listen to your body and respond accordingly:


  • Normal: It’s normal to experience some discomfort or soreness around your incisions, especially in the early weeks. Think of it as a sign that your body is healing.
  • Warning Sign: Sharp, stabbing, or intense pain that worsens with movement or persists even after resting is your body’s way of saying “Stop!” This could indicate an injury or a problem with the healing process.
  • What to do:
    • Mild discomfort: You can likely continue with your activity, but keep an eye on it.
    • Increasing or sharp pain: Stop immediately and rest. If the pain is severe or doesn’t improve with rest, consult Dr Lim.


  • Normal: Some increase in swelling after exercise is normal, especially in the early stages of recovery. This is because activity increases blood flow to the area.
  • Warning Sign: Swelling that persists for a long time after exercise, worsens over time, or is accompanied by redness, warmth, or tenderness could signal a problem.
  • What to do:
    • Normal swelling: Elevate your chest with pillows while resting, apply ice packs as directed by Dr Lim, and avoid activities that worsen the swelling.
    • Persistent or worsening swelling: Reduce the intensity or duration of your workouts. If it doesn’t improve, contact Dr Lim.


  • Normal: Feeling more tired than usual, especially in the first few weeks after surgery, is completely expected. Your body is working hard to heal!
  • Warning Sign: Extreme fatigue that prevents you from completing daily tasks or doesn’t improve with rest could indicate a problem.
  • What to do:
    • Normal fatigue: Prioritise rest, listen to your body, and don’t be afraid to take extra rest days when needed. Gradually increase your activity levels as your energy returns.
    • Excessive or persistent fatigue: Consult Dr Lim to rule out any underlying issues.

Tips for a Safe and Effective Exercise Comeback

As you ease back into exercise after gynaecomastia surgery, keep these additional tips in mind to optimise your recovery and prevent setbacks:

Hydration is Key

  • Why it matters: Staying hydrated is always important, but it’s especially important after surgery and during exercise. Water helps regulate body temperature, transports nutrients to cells, and flushes out waste products.
  • How much to drink: Aim to drink plenty of water throughout the day, not just when you’re thirsty.
  • When to drink: Drink water consistently throughout the day, especially:
    • Before exercise: Drink a glass or two of water about 30 minutes before your workout.
    • During exercise: Take sips of water regularly, even if you don’t feel thirsty.
    • After exercise: Replenish fluids lost through sweat by drinking water after your workout.

Dress for Success

  • Choose the right fabrics: Opt for loose-fitting, breathable clothing made from moisture-wicking materials like cotton or performance fabrics. This will help keep you cool, dry, and comfortable during your workout.
  • Avoid irritation: Make sure your clothing doesn’t rub against or irritate your incisions. Avoid tight-fitting tops or bras that put pressure on the area.
  • Consider compression garments: Dr Lim will recommend wearing a compression garment during exercise. Compression garments provide support to the chest area, help reduce swelling, and can make you feel more comfortable during activity.

Warm-Ups and Cool-Downs

  • Why they matter: Warming up prepares your muscles for exercise, increasing blood flow and flexibility, while cooling down helps your body gradually return to a resting state, preventing muscle soreness and stiffness.
  • Warm-up ideas (5-10 minutes):
    • Light cardio, like brisk walking or arm circles
    • Dynamic stretches, such as leg swings and torso twists
  • Cool-down ideas (5-10 minutes):
    • Static stretches, holding each stretch for 20-30 seconds
    • Light walking

FAQs about When to Resume Exercise after Gynaecomastia Surgery


Will exercise affect the appearance of my scars?

  • Exercise itself won’t worsen your scars. However, excessive sweating or friction from clothing during exercise can irritate healing incisions. Keep the area clean and dry, wear breathable fabrics, and consider silicone scar sheets (with Dr Lim’s approval) to minimise friction and promote optimal scar healing.

I’m feeling impatient! Can I speed up the timeline for returning to heavy lifting?

  • While it’s understandable to be eager, trying to rush back to heavy lifting can be counterproductive. It puts significant strain on healing tissues, potentially causing complications like bleeding, pain, and delayed healing. Focus on gradual progression and trust the process. Your patience will pay off in the long run.

My chest feels tight after surgery. Will exercise help with this?

  • Yes, gentle exercises and stretches approved by Dr Lim can help alleviate tightness by improving blood flow and range of motion. Focus on exercises that gently stretch the chest and shoulder muscles without putting direct pressure on the incisions.

I used to take pre-workout supplements. Can I start using them again now that I’m exercising?

  • It’s best to check with Dr Lim before reintroducing any supplements, including pre-workout formulas. Some ingredients might interact with medications or affect healing. Dr Lim can advise you on the safest course of action.

I’m experiencing some anxiety about returning to the gym after surgery. What can I do?

  • It’s normal to feel some anxiety. Start with activities you feel comfortable with, gradually increase the intensity, and remember that everyone’s recovery is different. If you’re struggling, talk to Dr Lim or a therapist for support.

Further Reading about Male Surgery with Dr Jake Lim

Medical References about Gynaecomastia Surgery

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