When Should You Resume Activity After Heart Surgery?

Timing depends on several factors
Moderate Activity May Be All Your Heart Needs

Getting back to your favorite outdoor activities after heart surgery can’t happen soon enough. Especially in warm, sunny weather.

Advertising Policy

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

But that’s no excuse to do too much too soon. Body tissue and bone takes time to heal completely.

“People who have had heart surgery should talk to their doctor about the right time to resume specific activities,” says Douglas Johnston, MD, a cardio-thoracic surgeon at Cleveland Clinic.

Timing depends on several factors, he notes:

Advertising Policy
  • Your overall health, and whether you need follow-up treatment. For example, some aorta surgeries are two-step processes.
  • Type of procedure. A traditional open surgery will require more healing time than a minimally invasive procedure.
  • Type of activity. Usually, activities that require less arm movement and put less pressure on your chest area can be resumed sooner.
  • Pain medications. Taking pain medication can make you drowsy and make it more dangerous for you to perform some activities.
  • How you’re feeling. If you’re still sore or weak, don’t overdo it. Gradual increase in activity is best. Spread activities throughout the day, taking frequent breaks to rest.

While Dr. Johnston’s advice may differ from your doctor’s, here are his general guidelines about how long to wait before returning to your favorite fair-weather activities:


After heart surgery, patients see their medical team for a post-surgery check-up. During this appointment, the patient’s incision is checked for healing and the patient is evaluated to see how recovery is progressing. This is a good time to talk to your medical team about return to activities.

Advertising Policy

“My goal always is to get patients back to their normal routines, so I tend to move patients along fairly quickly,” says Dr. Johnston. “But each patient’s situation is different, and there are many factors to consider. That’s why everyone should check with their surgeon before jumping back into any activity.”

Learn more

Advertising Policy