Learn Which Physical Activities Are Best for You on Your Journey of Transformation
One of the key steps on the journey to a successful bariatric surgery outcome— both before and after the procedure — is exercise.
My patients always ask me questions about exercise. They want to know if and when they can exercise after bariatric surgery, and what kinds of exercise are safe. I reassure them that they most certainly can, and should, exercise after. After all, people have weight-loss surgery to enjoy better health. And exercise — along with a good nutrition — is a necessary complement to surgery.
Here are some of the most common questions about exercise that I address with patients considering bariatric surgery:
Why is exercise important after bariatric surgery?
Exercise is one of the tools that will help you reach and maintain your best health after surgery. Being active helps to:
- Preserve lean muscle mass and muscle strength
- Promote the stability of your joints and enhance the strength of your bones
- Improve the elasticity of your skin after bariatric surgery
- Continue your weight loss after surgery — and most importantly – helps with weight maintenance
Another benefit of exercise that is important to so many of my patients is that it helps them further manage some of their co-existing conditions, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, that prompted them to have bariatric surgery in the first place.
How soon can I exercise after bariatric surgery, and what precautions should I take?
Phase 1: Up to 4 weeks: Start with a little movement
It’s common to be sore and uncomfortable immediately after surgery. But a little movement, like 5 to 10 minutes of walking a few times a day, can help put you on the road to recovery and is recommended by our surgeons.
- Walk slowly
- Stop when feeling uncomfortable
- Persist with this until feeling ready for next phase
- Over do walking
- Neglect to hydrate yourself
Phase 2: 4 weeks to 12 weeks: Slowly increase your physical activity
From there, you can slowly increase your physical activity as you heal from weight-loss surgery. It’s generally safe to start exercising up to your pain threshold.
- Increase your cardio workout
- Keep a track of your heart rate
- Keep yourself hydrated
- Do it all on your own – take advice from a professional
- Overlook the power of this phase to build your stamina
- Get too early into next phase or resistance
Phase 3: 12 weeks and beyond: Introducing strength training
This is the phase when you introduce resistance training which helps you build muscle. After bariatric surgery, your body’s centre of balance changes quickly because of all the weight you’re losing, and this can impact your stability. This is why strength training is so important.
- Follow a structured plan of strength training
- Remember to be gentle and slow with weights
- Keep up with the cardio exercises
- Engage in exercise that causes pain
- Avoid jerky movements with weights
- Engage in exercises like lunges or squats early on as they rely on your balance
What types of exercise are best after bariatric surgery?
We all need 2 kinds of exercise, whether we’ve had weight-loss surgery or not:
- Aerobic exercise, such as walking or biking, to get our heart rate up
- Strength training, such as lifting weights or doing push-ups, to help us build and maintain muscle and strong bones
Here are some exercise routines I recommend to my patients:
Keep this handy list of exercise options after weight-loss surgery.
- Go for a walk.
You have many options for being active after surgery. I often suggest starting with a simple walking program. Walking is easy and doesn’t require any special equipment. Even if all you can do at first is walk around inside your home several times a day, that will get you moving and on your way to building stamina.
- Try swimming, water aerobics and biking.
Swimming and water aerobics are excellent exercise choices, as they are gentle on the joints while providing both aerobic exercise and strength training. Biking is a good option, too. Remember that you can modify just about any exercise to meet your needs. As I say to my patients, a modified push-up is still a push-up.
- After 3 months, get into aerobic activity and strength training.
In the first 6 months after surgery, I recommend 30 minutes of continuous aerobic activity 3 to 5 days a week. Add some strength training activity to your routine as well.
Once you’ve passed the 6-month mark, work to increase your physical movement. Aim for 45 minutes of continuous aerobic activity at least 4 days a week, and keep doing some strength training.
For certain people, high-intensity training may work better.
Your medical doctor and exercise physio/personal trainer can recommend to you the best exercise plan after surgery.
What else should I keep in mind about exercise after bariatric surgery?
I remind patients that exercise, like changes in diet, is a tool for a healthy life. It can help you move toward your weight-loss goal and help you maintain your weight once you get there. You want exercise to become part of your daily routine, so it’s important to find activities you enjoy.
Don’t be afraid to try new things.
Also remember that your ability to exercise may vary because of your weight or co-existing conditions like arthritis and sleep apnoea.
Finally, remember that weight loss is like a marathon, not a sprint. It takes time, and every day is an opportunity to embrace your new lifestyle.
This is where it is important to follow the advice of your professionals. At Body Genesis Institute – Centre for Weight Loss, we have professionals who can support you at every step of your journey of Transformation.
Dr Arun Dhir
Upper Gi and Bariatric Surgeon