Exercise After A Transplant

Along with eating healthy meals throughout the day and taking your medications, regular exercise can help keep you healthy by:

  • Making it possible to reach or maintain a healthy weight
  • Lowering cholesterol and blood pressure
  • Maintaining muscle tone
  • Protecting bone strength
  • Reducing stress

Remember to always talk to your doctor before starting or changing your exercise routine.

Exercise after a heart transplant

Once your doctor agrees that you are ready to return to most of your normal activities, you should discuss a moderate exercise program to help you rebuild your strength and avoid weight gain. To ensure a good workout, be sure to work to your peak activity level and maintain it for several minutes; however, keep in mind that your transplanted heart will not function in the same way as a normal heart. Your transplanted heart will beat faster and will respond more slowly to exercise. Be sure to ask your doctor what your peak heart rate should be when exercising.

Actions to avoid during initial recovery (your doctor will determine how long to avoid these specific activities):

  • Do not lift, push, or pull objects heavier than 10 pounds.
  • Avoid activities that cause pain, stretching, or pulling across your chest.
  • Do not do sit-ups, pull-ups, or push-ups.

Exercise after a kidney or liver transplant

After surgery, you’ll want to rest. As time passes and you start to feel a little better, you can slowly begin a moderate exercise program if your doctor agrees that you’re ready. Start by following these simple steps:

  • Begin an exercise program with a short period of walking — start with 5 minutes per session.
  • Gradually increase walking time 10 to 15 minutes per session.
  • Continue to increase activity, as you feel better.

Exercise tips post transplant

No matter what kind of transplant you’ve had, you’ll want to create an exercise plan with your transplant team that meets your needs. Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Start slowly and set realistic goals.
  • Warm up before any exercise with gentle stretching to help get the blood flowing.
  • Exercise at your own pace — don't push yourself.
  • No activity is too small — take the stairs, park farther from an entrance, walk the dog, or clean the house.
  • Make sure to cool down after you exercise — stretch and walk at a slow pace
  • Stay hydrated to help restore the fluids lost through exercise.
  • Stay motivated by listening to your favorite music, varying your exercise routine, choosing activities that you enjoy, or working out with a friend or family member.

Exercising responsibly

Once exercise becomes a regular part of your life, it can be easy to overdo it. If you experience any of the following issues, stop exercising and notify your doctor immediately:

  • Chest, neck, or jaw pain or pressure
  • Excessive, unexplainable fatigue
  • Unusual shortness of breath, dizziness, or lightheadedness during or after exercise
  • Persistent or rapid heartbeat during or after exercise (for liver and kidney transplant patients)

Exercise beyond year one

As the years pass following your transplant surgery, you’ll want to continue to follow a program of regular exercise as prescribed by your doctor. And always try new activities if you get bored. What’s most important is that you challenge yourself by doing activities that help you stay motivated.