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Benefits of Swimming After Breast Surgery

Dive in! You can and should swim after breast surgery. Get our swimming tips.

A woman in swimming goggles doing relaxing floating exercises in a pool

Guide To Swimming After A Mastectomy

Dive in! You can and should swim after breast surgery.  

Can I Swim After My Mastectomy?

The answer is a resounding “yes.” Because it’s so gentle, swimming after a mastectomy is an excellent way to exercise all your major muscle groups and avoid muscular atrophy – sometimes seen in post-surgical patients who remain sedentary for prolonged periods.

When Can You Swim After a Mastectomy?

When the doctor says it’s okay to begin moderate exercise, swimming is one of the best first steps. Many doctors and swimming experts endorse it as one of the safest, most comfortable ways to get back into exercise. 

“One of the big plusses of swimming comes from the magic buoyancy of water. There is no pressure or strain placed on the muscles and joints,” says Jane Katz, Ed.D., professor of health and physical education at John Jay College at the City University of New York. There’s also the built-in cooling effect of the water, which keeps your temperature down throughout your workout. This is especially important for women experiencing hot flashes associated with chemical or natural menopause. 

Swimming Strengthens Muscles and Burns Calories

After breast surgery, you’re likely to have a slightly different centre of gravity, and you’ll learn to posture yourself differently. Swimming strengthens your abdomen, back and shoulders, which all help carry your frame easily, reducing the likelihood of back discomfort. Stronger and more toned muscles, especially the abdominal, shoulder and chest muscles, make for an easier recovery from breast surgery.  

The cardiovascular benefits are great too. Once you’ve worked up to a fast and steady pace, you’ll be improving the condition of your heart – the most important muscle in your body – each time you swim.

Swimming After Breast Surgery - Amoena Swim breast form

Swimming can help with the post-chemotherapy weight gain some women experience. For many women, high-impact sports such as running can be uncomfortable, and even risky if you fall.  Swimming and water exercises can help you exercise gently and safely. Unlike tennis or other competitive sports, you can swim alone, at a pace you set, and stop when you feel tired.

5 Tips For Swimming After Breast Cancer Surgery:

  • Do no more than 20 minutes of any stroke. Doggy-paddle is good for upper-body conditioning. Breaststroke is a relaxing option, helpful for toning and stretching leg muscles. Backstroke helps strengthen back muscles. Sidestroke may work well after a lateral mastectomy (working the opposite arm). Butterfly stroke is strongly discouraged since it is very strenuous and requires an arched back.
  • Always do warm-up and cool down stretches. Five minutes of each. These can be done both in and out of the pool. You can sit at the edge of the pool and kick water or stretch your calf muscles. In the pool, you can do a slow walk or jog to help your body adjust to the water. Avoid overstretching your surgical site.
  • Don’t overheat. Changes in your body may make it less adaptable to heat so always be careful. If you live in a warm climate and swim outdoors, avoid the hottest part of the day. Make sure you drink water before and after your swim.
  • Don’t overdo it. If you feel tired, stop. You should be relaxed, not drained. Now is not the time to rev up your heart rate.
  • Before starting this or any exercise program, always check with your doctor.  If you aren’t a regular breast form and pouch on wooden surface swimmer, don’t start with 50 laps of breaststroke. Instead, try gentle water exercises, that will give you many of the same benefits, such as arm circles and wall push-ups.

Can I Wear A Regular Swimsuit?

Absolutely!  If you have had reconstructive surgery, your swimwear should still fit and support your breasts while swimming. This is your cue not to rule out swimming after breast reconstruction surgery – you can still feel comfortable and confident in a regular swimsuit. 

If you wear breast prostheses, there are lots of pocketed swimwear options available that are every bit as beautiful as you’re used to. These can hold either a regular silicone breast form, or even better, a form made especially for swimming, like Aqua Wave. 

Amoena breast form and pouch on wooden surface

Chlorine and salt water won’t damage your breast form — but be sure to rinse it (and your swimsuit) in fresh water after you swim. If left unwashed, chlorine and salt will break down the silicone.

Sauna, Hot Tub and Hammam After Breast Cancer Treatment

Lots of women ask us about using hot tubs and saunas with their breast forms. Here are our recommendations: 
  • The highest safe temperature for a silicone breast form is 60°C (140°F). Take care to know the water temperature before using a hot tub or sauna.
  • Typical Hammam temperature is around 50°C (122°F), which is acceptable for a breast form, including Aqua Wave.
  • Avoid sulphur baths. Your breast form will absorb the smell and colour. 
  • Aqua Wave breast form is highly recommended for swimming and spa.

Once your doctor gives you the go-ahead, all our recommendations for swimming after breast surgery, should gently ease you into a highly beneficial post-surgery exercise regime.