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Safe Exercise After an Organ Transplant

Becoming active after your transplant with physical fitness exercises and other activities.

After a transplant, it's pretty common for people to worry about damaging their new organ. Physical activity might seem risky. Doing the activities you enjoy, like bicycling or rollerblading, might seem rash. After all you went through to get a transplanted organ, the last thing you want to do is break it.

That cautious reaction is normal, but you're less fragile than you think, says Richard Perez, MD, PhD, the director of the Transplant Center at the University of California Medical Center at Davis. Physical activity is usually safe for anyone who gets an organ transplant. It's often key to staying healthy.

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Exercise helps people who have had a transplant just like it helps anyone else. It lowers your blood pressure, helps your heart, and lowers your weight. It also makes it easier to sleep and relax. You'll just feel better when you're exercising regularly.

When Will I Be Back to Normal After an Organ Tranplant?

Of course, you won't be back on the tennis court right away after an organ transplant. But Perez says that recovery from transplant surgery doesn't usually take much longer than recovery from other types of surgery. Healing may be slowed down a little by the drugs you need to prevent organ rejection.

Perez says that after staying in the hospital for about a week or so -- longer for heart and lung recipients -- most people can go home. You should take it easy for a few weeks.

"After about a month, people are usually back at their normal activities, like driving," says Perez. "After about two to three months, they're completely back to normal, as long as there are no complications."

New Vigor After an Organ Transplant

The notion that people are sickly or weak after a transplant is often completely wrong. Instead, you may feel more energized than you have in a long time.

"A successful transplant usually allows people to have more capacity for exercise," explains Perez.

There are plenty of high-profile examples to prove it. For instance, there's Chris Klug, a liver transplant recipient who went on to win a bronze medal in snowboarding at the 2002 winter Olympics. And there's the basketball player Sean Elliott, formerly of the San Antonio Spurs. He returned to the NBA seven months after his kidney transplant.

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What's your main post-transplant concern?