Cataract surgery is a fairly common and safe procedure that is relatively quick. It is performed to improve cloudy vision by removing the clouded lens and replacing it with an artificial lens.

Generally, any pain and discomfort from cataract surgery subside within a few days after the outpatient procedure. Vision clears quickly, and complete healing takes about eight weeks.

Any strenuous activity, including exercise, should be put on hold for at least a week. (Learn More) You may be able to go back to light activity, such as walking, a week or so after cataract surgery. (Learn More) Returning to exercising too soon after surgery can increase the possible complications related to the procedure. (Learn More)

Follow all your doctor's instructions following cataract surgery. Allow enough time for your eyes and body to heal before resuming normal activities.

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When Can I Return to Exercising?

Discomfort from cataract surgery is typically minor and may only last a few days. This can make it tempting to go right back to your normal level of activity. It is important to wait at least a week before doing any strenuous activity, such as heavy lifting or exercise.

Try not to life anything heavier than 5 to 10 pounds, and keep your head above your body. Avoid swimming or hot tubs for at least a week as well.

You will typically have a follow-up appointment with your eye doctor within a week after the surgery. This is a good time to discuss returning to normal activities. It is important to follow all instructions and recommendations your doctor gives you for recovery.

Resuming Activity

You may be able to go back to light activity within a few days to a week after cataract surgery. Light walking, stretching, and activities that do not involve placing your head lower than your body, bending at the waist, heavy lifting, or high intensity are generally acceptable within a day or two after surgery.

Clear any activity with your doctor first. Usually, after a week post-op, you will be able to start adding in longer periods of activity and more intense exercise.

You may still need to take it easy for few weeks though and ease back into things. Strenuous lifting and swimming may need to be postponed for at least a month after surgery for optimal healing time. You should be able to go back to most forms of rigorous exercise within a few weeks after surgery if your doctor approves it.

Your eyes will need at least two months to heal completely after cataract surgery. Your doctor may recommend a specific schedule of adding exercise back into your routine.

Why Wait?

perspective of someone with blurry vision

Cataract surgery is considered an extremely safe and common surgical procedure with high success rates. You will have the best chance at good results if you follow your recovery and follow-up plan exactly. As with any surgical procedure, you will need to allow your eyes and body time to heal and aim to minimize the risk for infection.

There are several good reasons to wait to exercise after cataract surgery.

  • Your eyes are going to be blurry for the first few days. This increases the odds of getting injured, bumping into something, misjudging distance, and dropping things. You will need to be careful walking around and take it slow for the first few days after surgery. You will also not be able to drive for the first day or so.
  • Avoid getting dust or debris into your eyes after surgery to minimize the risk for infection. Your doctor may also ask you to wear an eye shield for the first day or two to keep the surgical site clean and protected. Exercise can kick up dirt and dust. This can elevate the odds that something will get into the eye and lead to infection before the incision has a chance to heal.
  • Bending down, lifting things, and straining can increase pressure in the head and eyes, which can lead to post-op complications. By allowing your body and eyes time to heal after cataract surgery, you lower the risk for adverse reactions, such as retinal detachment, fluid buildup in the eye, swelling of the cornea, increased eye pressure, or a dislocation of the lens that was implanted.
  • Lakes, pools, oceans, hot tubs, and rivers can all be filled with numerous types of bacteria and infectious agents. It is ideal to wait until your eyes are mostly healed before going in these. It may be most beneficial to wait to swim or expose yourself to these bodies of water for a few weeks to a month to lower the odds for infection.

Complications following cataract surgery are rare, the American Optometric Association (AOA) explains, but infection, bleeding, inflammation, swelling, and possible vision impairment are possible.

You can minimize the odds for a negative reaction or complication by allowing your eyes and body proper time to heal, attending your follow-up appointments, and listening to your eye doctor regarding when you can return to regular levels of activity and exercise.

References

Cataract Surgery. (March 2018). Mayo Clinic.

Exercise After Cataract Surgery. (2019). LIVESTRONG.

Cataract Surgery Recovery. (October 2016). All About Vision (AAV).

Cataract Surgery. (2019). American Optometric Association (AOA).