Low-Impact Exercises after Surgery

One of the most exciting benefits of orthopedic surgery is the ability to resume an active lifestyle. Sports, exercise and daily activities that were once painful or difficult are now on the horizon once again, and you’re understandably anxious to get back to doing what you love most. But you may find that the road to recovery is a little slower than expected.

Although exercise and physical activity are a vital part of the recovery process, your body will need time to gradually adjust to movement. During this time, you will need low-impact exercises to improve flexibility and range of motion without placing too much stress on the joints. Here are some exercises that can help you stay active while allowing your body to heal.


Walking is an ideal exercise during recovery because it can be easily tapered to fit your needs. Whether you walk outdoors, on a treadmill or simply practice getting from point A to point B, you will increase strength in your knees and hips and restore range of motion. Begin with small steps on flat surfaces, and keep your distances short. As you get stronger, you can gradually increase your distance and add some rolling hills.


The elliptical trainer provides a great cardio workout, and its gliding movements make it less stressful on the joints than a treadmill. You can easily change up your workout by pedaling backward or forward, and your elevation and intensity can easily be adjusted with the push of a button. Some ellipticals are equipped with moving poles for an upper body workout, but be sure to check with your doctor or physical therapist first if you are recovering from a shoulder injury.


Swimming simultaneously works all major muscle groups, and because it is a non-weight-bearing activity, it is perfect for hip, knee and shoulder recovery. Be sure to check with your doctor before you begin a swimming routine. There will be a period of time after surgery that you will not be able to soak your incision.


Cycling is an excellent way to build knee strength and restore range of movement. Stationary bikes allow you to easily adjust resistance and intensity, and you have the option to pedal forward or backward. If you choose to cycle outdoors, remember to start on flat surfaces and increase your distance gradually (Source: Healthline).


With gliding movements and adjustable resistance, indoor rowing provides a low-impact workout that targets the back, arms, legs and abdominals. Begin with low resistance, and gradually increase the intensity of your workout as you build your strength.

Low-impact exercise can help speed the recovery process, but always check with your doctor or physical therapist before beginning a new routine. You may have certain limitations in the weeks after surgery, and doing too much too soon can impede your body’s ability to heal. Keep your exercise routine slow and steady, and before long you’ll be able to resume the activities you love.