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To promote your physical and mental well-being, it is vital that you continue the exercise program that began following your surgery. The physical therapist will guide you in a daily progression of activities designed to improve your strength, endurance and coordination. You are also encouraged to walk as much as possible, resting as needed.
As discussed with your therapist, there are a few restrictions in your physical activity for the first six to eight weeks following surgery in order to allow time for the breast bone (sternum) to heal. They are:
Do not lift objects heavier than ten pounds
Do not push or pull objects heavier than ten pounds unless instructed by your therapist or nurse
Do not attempt sit-ups, push-ups, or pull-ups
Discontinue any activity that causes pain or pulling across your chest
Do not drive a car due to risk of injury to sternum from steering wheel in case of accident.
Prior to your discharge from the hospital, you and your therapist will discuss a plan for your exercise program as an outpatient. You will be asked to continue the three phases of your program on a daily basis. These phases are:
Warm-up: Limbering and stretching activities
Peak activity: Cycling, rapid walking, and swimming (we do not recommend jogging as a primary activity; your therapist will explain why)
Cool-down: A repeat of slow stretching and walking
After discharge, there will still be a few restrictions to your activities. You will be free (with your doctor's approval, of course) to pursue almost any recreational endeavor, however contact sports should be avoided. Brisk walking is suggested rather than jogging.
Just as in the hospital, you will need to be aware of how your heart rate and respirations respond to exercise. If you become overly short of breath or fatigued, you should begin your cool-down phase. Your therapist will give you guidelines and a daily log to record your exercise response before you leave the hospital. Exercise should be decreased during rejection episodes.
Sexual activity is not to be avoided, although incisional pain may limit the intensity of activity early after surgery. Remember, any activity or position that causes pain or pulling across your surgical incision should be avoided for the first six to eight weeks following surgery. After this period the sternal incision has healed sufficiently well to withstand any level of physical activity and restrictions, including those against driving, no longer apply.
If you have any questions concerning your activities or restrictions in performing a particular activity, please ask your therapist, nurse or doctor.