Physical Activity After Surgery
Keeping active after your cardiac surgery is very important to your recovery and returning to your normal lifestyle. However, this activity is not without limitations.
Instructions from Physical Therapist
Before you are discharged from the hospital, your physical therapist will give you information about what activities will be good for you when you are home. He or she will provide you with a walking plan you can follow as an outpatient.
Perform Normal Daily Activities
Everyday at home you should be:
- Getting up
- Eating meals at the table
- Performing all your daily normal activities
It is important not to overdo your activity and to rest when you are tired or short of breath.
Walking for short intervals and increasing those intervals as you feel able is essential to returning to your normal lifestyle.
Get Approval For Vigorous Exercise From Doctor
You should NOT do any vigorous exercise (including walking faster than 3 mph) until approved by your doctor. Usually, your cardiologist will order a stress test before approving vigorous activity.
Outpatient Cardiac Rehabilitation Program
In 6-8 weeks, after you have recovered from your surgery, your cardiologist may refer you to an outpatient cardiac rehabilitation program. In cardiac rehab, you will work with a trained therapist who will gradually increase your activity and monitor your heart at the same time.
Activities to Avoid For Many Weeks
There are other activities that must be avoided for many weeks in order to protect the incision on your chest so it may heal properly. They include the following:
No heavy lifting, pushing or pulling greater than 10 pounds (i.e. a gallon of milk) for 10 weeks with your arms. This will help ensure proper healing of your bone and incision. It is also important to hug a pillow to your chest when coughing. This will reduce pain and prevent any tension on your incision or chest.
Do not drive until cleared by your surgeon. It is ok to ride in a car, but you must wear a seat belt at all times. Initially, your cardiac surgeon prefers you to sit in the back seat of the car. If the shoulder belt is uncomfortable you may place a pillow between yourself and the seatbelt for comfort. Usually you will be cleared to drive after one month and when you have stopped taking narcotics for pain.
Do not travel by air until you discuss this with your surgeon.
Avoid crowded, public places during cold and flu season or anyone that may be ill.
Sleep anywhere you are comfortable, whether in your bed, on the couch, or in a chair. It is ok to sleep on your side. If you are sleeping in a chair or elevating your head on many pillows due to shortness of breath that is not improving or getting worse, please call your doctor. Sleep is very important to healing and well-being. Sometimes you can get your days and nights mixed up while in the hospital. Nap as little as possible when you first get home to get yourself back into a normal sleep pattern.
- You can resume
sexual activity when you can climb two flights of stairs without difficulty or shortness of breath. Be mindful not to support your weight with your arms.