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How Long Must You Wait to Exercise After Cataract Surgery?

Amarpreet Brar, M.D.

Medically Reviewed by Amarpreet Brar, M.D.

Fact Checked
4 sources cited

Last Updated

It’s recommended that you avoid weight-bearing exercise and bending over for 1 to 2 weeks following cataract surgery.

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. You can go back to activities, such as walking, running, and bike riding usually a week after cataract surgery.

You should consult your doctor for your specific case. Follow all your doctor’s instructions following cataract surgery and allow enough time for your eyes and body to heal before resuming normal activities.

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What is Considered Strenuous Activity After Cataract Surgery?

Under the category of strenuous activity after cataract surgery, any exercise or physical exertion that requires significant effort and strain falls into this category. This includes but is not limited to:

  • Heavy lifting (anything heavier than 15 to 20 pounds)
  • Jogging, running, cycling
  • HIIT workouts, CrossFit, boot camp, spinning
  • Swimming (for 1 month)
  • Activities that involve bending over or placing your head lower than your waist

These actions can increase pressure in the head and eyes, potentially leading to post-op complications. Strenuous activity like these is advised against for at least a week post-surgery and should be resumed only after proper consultation with your eye doctor.

Try not to lift anything heavier than 15 to 20 pounds, and keep your head above your waist. Avoid swimming or hot tubs for at least a couple of weeks.

When Can I Return to Exercising?

Discomfort from cataract surgery is typically minor if at all. 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 strenuous activity, such as heavy lifting.

Try not to lift anything heavier than 15 to 20 pounds, and keep your head above your waist. Avoid swimming or hot tubs for at least a couple weeks.

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. Walking, stretching, and activities that DO NOT involve placing your head lower than your waist, heavy lifting, or high intensity are generally acceptable within a day or two after surgery.

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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 in some cases 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.

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 may 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.
  • 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 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.

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

  1. Cataract Surgery. (March 2018). Mayo Clinic.
  2. Exercise After Cataract Surgery. (2019). LIVESTRONG.
  3. Cataract Surgery. (2019). American Optometric Association (AOA).
  4. Improving the Quality of Cataract Surgery. (April 2014). Community Eye Health Journal.

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