A person may need to rest and avoid certain physical movements for some time after cataract surgery. It may take several weeks before they can begin vigorous exercise.

Cataracts are cloudy areas of the eye lens that have a negative effect on a person’s sight. They may cause blurry vision or make it difficult to see color. During cataract surgery, a surgeon replaces the affected lens with an artificial one.

Immediately after cataract surgery, it is important to rest and avoid strenuous exercise. Exercising may increase the risk of complications such as infection, impaired wound healing, dislocation of the artificial lens implant, bleeding, or retinal detachment.

This article explores what to know about exercising after cataract surgery. Read on to learn which exercises may be safe, which to avoid, and more.

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Resting after cataract surgery is crucial for reducing the risk of certain complications. For example, individuals recovering from this surgery need to avoid bending over for at least 48 hours. This is because bending over increases pressure within the eye and may negatively affect recovery.

Immediately following cataract surgery, people may experience impaired vision, such as blurry or double vision. Avoiding exercise during this period helps minimize the risk of injury as a result of reduced vision.

Some people may be able to return to gentle forms of exercise, such as cycling or running, within a week after cataract surgery.

For more strenuous types of exercise, it may be necessary to wait for 2 or more weeks. The timeline for returning to exercise depends on the individual and their exercise routine.

Before resuming exercise, it is best for a person to speak with a doctor. They can provide individual guidance about exercise after cataract surgery.

Learn more about cataract surgery recovery.

Certain types of light exercise may be safe within a few days after cataract surgery. Most people who have this procedure can go for a walk as early as 1 day after the procedure.

Gentle, noncontact activities in which a person may be able to participate a week after surgery include:

  • cycling
  • running
  • golf
  • tennis

However, it is best for a person to talk with a doctor or physical therapist to learn more about what forms of exercise are safe for them to perform after cataract surgery based on their unique circumstances.

Doctors may also recommend wearing a comfortable pair of lightweight polycarbonate goggles to protect the eyes from accidental trauma.

Swimming after cataract surgery can lead to irritation or infection. Because of this, it is best to avoid swimming during the first couple of weeks after the procedure.

Some people may be able to return to swimming after 2 weeks. In other cases, a doctor may recommend waiting up to 6 weeks.

Since each recovery is unique, checking with a doctor before returning to the water is important.

Lifting heavy weights can cause extra strain during cataract surgery recovery. Sharing weights in a public facility may also increase the risk of infection.

To minimize risks after cataract surgery, it is best to avoid weightlifting for a few weeks. Once a doctor says it is okay to bend over and lift weights, people can consider resuming weightlifting gradually to reduce the risk of complications.

Individuals recovering from cataract surgery will need to avoid strenuous exercises or sports.

Exercises to avoid for the first week may include:

  • tennis
  • biking
  • jogging
  • golfing

It is important to avoid any physical activity that involves bending over or placing the head below the waist.

People also need to avoid swimming for at least 2 weeks after the procedure, though doctors may advise waiting up to 6 weeks.

A doctor can recommend when a person can begin more strenuous exercise based on their circumstances. They will consider factors such as the type of exercise and how well the eye is healing after surgery.

Learn more about what to avoid after cataract surgery.

Exercise can cause or worsen complications after cataract surgery.

Common complications of this procedure include:

Contact sports such as soccer or basketball involve the risk of facial impact. This could increase swelling and bruising.

Swimming or exercising in a fitness center may increase the chance of infection. Bending over while stretching or lifting weights can worsen pressure within the eye.

Returning to regular activities gradually is the best way to decrease the risk of exercise-related complications after cataract surgery.

In addition to getting plenty of rest, many steps can help speed up recovery after cataract surgery.

At-home options for improving recovery may include:

  • taking any medication a doctor prescribes
  • using eye drops at a doctor’s recommendation
  • wearing an eye shield at night and during hair washing
  • avoiding rubbing the eyes
  • not wearing eye make-up

A person’s doctor can provide more specific advice in caring for the eyes while they heal.

It is also important to inform a doctor about any new or worsening symptoms, such as swelling, eye pressure changes, or ongoing vision loss. These may all indicate serious complications.

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Cataract surgery is an effective technique for treating cataracts and restoring vision. Engaging in strenuous physical activities too soon after cataract surgery can increase the risk of complications.

Some gentle forms of exercise may be suitable around a week after this procedure. However, it is best for a person to wait at least 2 weeks for more strenuous activity and up to 6 weeks before they go swimming.

A person’s doctor can recommend a fitness plan suitable to each individual’s needs and how well the eyes heal after surgery.