When can you begin to exercise after hysterectomy?
Returning to an active lifestyle after the surgery should happen progressively.
Your post-hysterectomy recovery greatly depends on the fitness that your body had before the procedure.
A person who has been regularly exercising or performing physical activities will recover much sooner than a woman who has never exercised.
Unfortunately, most surgeons give rather vague advice about how women can safely resume exercise after a hysterectomy.
Usually, they will tell you that a 6 weeks period should pass without picking up heavy objects, physical activities that include running, swimming, aerobics or yoga.
But this may leave actively fit women, used to regular exercise, with many unanswered questions.
Like for example:
- What happens if you lift too much after hysterectomy?
- When is it safe to do abdominal core exercises after hysterectomy?
- Are there exercise limitations after hysterectomy with bladder repair?
Let’s start from the beginning There are exercises you can do right after surgery. These exercises help you recover faster and reduce the chance of complications.
Hysterectomy Recovery exercises
1. Breathing exercises are important as they help to clear the lungs and prevent lung infections. Do these exercises sitting up in bed or in a chair by the bed. Take a deep breath through your nose, hold 3 to 5 seconds, and release the air slowly through your mouth. When you inhale make your ribcage expand.
2. Coughing exercises help to clear the lungs of excess mucus. This can be painful if you have a wound in the abdomen. It helps when you use a pillow or a towel to support the wound while you try to cough.
3. The day after the operation you may still have a catheter or a drip in your arm. This may make getting out of bed and walking around more difficult. You can still do certain leg exercises while you are lying in bed. Alternately pulling up and straightening your legs. Move your ankles by bending and stretching or make circular movements. These exercises will improve your blood circulation and prevent that you develop a blood clot after hysterectomy.
4. The day after your hysterectomy they will also urge you to get out of bed and to start walking. The least painful and correct way of getting out of bed is by pulling up your legs one at the time and move your bottom away from the side of the bed. Slowly roll to your side. Then use the arm that is on top to push yourself upright and at the same time lower your legs of the bed, so you get in a sitting position. Relax a few minutes before standing up as you may feel a bit dizzy.
Walking after hysterectomy
Begin with short walks and build this up day by day walking a little bit further and longer. In the meanwhile, your wounds will heal and you can return to normal activities.
Why is walking my favorite exercise after hysterectomy?
Walking helps to reduce many of the side effects we have to deal with after a hysterectomy.
Benefits of walking exercises
1. Walking promotes our blood circulation, regulates our blood pressure and lowers our risk of coronary heart disease.
2. Walking also reduces joint pain after hysterectomy. Tough, it may be painful when you first start walking, you will soon notice the difference. It will decrease stiffness, keeps your joints moving and strengthen the muscles around the joints.
3. Walking will help your weight loss efforts. After your 6 weeks post-operative period you can start a more intense walking program. Speed interval walking is an excellent way to burn calories fast and lose that fat around the waist.
4. Walking will lift your mood when you are feeling anxious or depressed after hysterectomy. Regular walks will give you new energy, clear your mind and make you more alert.
5. If you are having problems with constipation after hysterectomy walking is a must. It stimulates the muscles of your digestive tract and helps you have regular bowel movements.
Other low-impact exercises after hysterectomy
When can you go swimming after a hysterectomy?
This is something you will have to discuss with your doctor. Relaxed swimming is a low impact exercise that provides an entire body workout without putting stress on your abdominals. Most doctors will let you swim when your stitches have dissolved and your wound is fully healed. This is usually around two weeks after the surgery.
Most swimming pools contain chlorine that will kill harmful bacteria so the risk of infection is very low. Other doctors insist you should delay swimming until your 6 weeks checkup. They argue there may still be light bleeding during the recovery period and the inner incision (vaginal cuff) may not have completely healed.
Pelvic floor exercise after hysterectomy
Before you start exercises that may put a strain on the pelvic floor it’s highly advisable you start by strengthening those muscles as they may be weakened or damaged from your surgery. Training the pelvic floor muscles is the best exercise after hysterectomy you can do to prevent prolapse.
Usually, the doctor will allow you to start gentle pelvic floor exercises as soon as they remove your catheter. If these exercises cause you pain, stop them for a few days, and then try again. Keep in mind that your pelvic floor muscles offer support for your internal organs and may protect you from future problems like leaking urine or bowel incontinence.
Vigorous Exercise after hysterectomy
You should avoid any exercise after hysterectomy, that includes intense abdominal exertion, stretching or puts extra pressure on the pelvic floor for at least 6 to 8 weeks after your surgery. This depends of course on the type of hysterectomy surgery you had.
Normally you are able to resume the following exercises after 6 weeks:
Wait until 8 weeks with the following exercises as they not only put great strength on the pelvic floor but also toss around your abdominal contents.
• Jogging /Running
• Horse riding
• Racquet sports
Starting with this type of strenuous activities too soon may cause internal injuries and delay your recovery immensely.
Why are there lifting restrictions after hysterectomy?
Surgeons often say: lift nothing heavier than a gallon of milk in the post-operative period.
Or, no vacuuming and don’t bend for 3 to 4 weeks.
These guidelines may vary from surgeon to surgeon. No study exists that explains when it is safe to resume certain activities and which exercises will have a negative effect on a woman’s recovery. Their advice is mostly based on intuition and experience.
Heavy lifting will increase the pressure in the abdominal area and put extra tension on the healing wound. High impact activities may also cause pelvic organ prolapse when the pelvic muscles have not been able to regain most of their pre-operative strength.
It’s important that you follow the instructions of your surgeon, He knows exactly how complicated your surgery was and what is safe in your situation.
When can you do abdominal /core exercise after hysterectomy?
Are you eager to go back to the gym to start with abdominal exercises?
Do none of your clothes fit because of your swelled belly?
You’re wrong if you believe that this abdominal swelling after hysterectomy will go away with a few ab workouts. Swelling of the abdomen is from fluid retention and abdominal gas and can last sometimes up to six months after the hysterectomy.
By doing unsuitable exercises there is not only a greater risk of injury but it can also stretch and weaken your pelvic floor muscles. The pressure produced during intensive abdominal exercises may weaken your incision or reopen the wound. This inner wound may take up to 3 months to heal completely.
So, to be safe, begin your abdominal core muscle exercises at a slow pace.
Here are some acceptable exercises to start with.
For the pelvic tilt, you have to lie on your back and bend your knees, tilt your pelvis, and flatten your low back to the ground.
Try and hold for a count of 5 and then relax. You can repeat this exercise 5 times. As your abs get stronger slowly increase this to 15 times.
KNEE PLANK (or half plank)
Knee planks are easier than traditional planks and a safer choice for exercise after hysterectomy. Get on all fours and lower your elbows to the floor. The elbows need to be directly under your shoulders. Slowly slide your legs backward while keeping your knees on the floor. Lift your lower back engaging your abs and hold for 30 seconds.
POINT TUMMY VACUUM
This simple exercise will help you to activate your core muscles. Again you get on your hands and knees. Position your shoulders right above your hands and your hips above the knees. While you take a deep breath, you let your belly hang to the ground. Next, you exhale and pull your stomach in as far as you can. Hold this position for 10 seconds and relax for 5 seconds. You can start with 6 to 8 repetitions.
How to exercise after hysterectomy with bladder repair?
When it comes to starting an exercise program after a hysterectomy with vaginal repair surgery it’s a good idea to get guidance from a physical therapist. Working with an experienced physical therapist offers you the easiest and safest way to improve your health and fitness.
Especially for women with complicated surgeries and multiple repairs, it is important to safely start physical activities. A physical therapist has the knowledge and expertise to design a program that works best for you. He or she can also teach you how to strengthen the muscles that support the bladder to prevent a repeat prolapse. If you worry about the cost then maybe your surgeon can write a prescription for physical therapy. It’s likely (make sure you check first) your insurance will cover the cost.
After any surgery, one of the most difficult things is to start the exercise program and resume your normal activities. After a hysterectomy, getting back to normal is a gradual process, and you do not have hush-hush about it. It may take weeks to improve the strength, mobility, and flexibility of the parts. Therefore, it is important to start slowly by understanding your limitations.
Especially when you feel pain, fatigue or start to bleed your body is giving you a clear sign that you need to slow down. Be sure to consult your doctor when is the right time to go back to exercise after hysterectomy, especially the ones that include abdominal muscle exercises and stretching.