Getting Back to Exercise After Bariatric Surgery: Safe and Effective Strategies
What should you do when you’re ready to exercise after bariatric surgery? Here are some safe and effective strategies for getting active again to reach your goals.
Benefits of Exercise
Why should you exercise after bariatric surgery when you are already working so hard at what you eat? It’s true that your diet is the biggest driver of weight loss, but exercise can have the following benefits, too.
- Improving mood and self-confidence, including in your ability to follow your post-op meal plan
- Being stronger and more functional in daily life
- Lowering blood sugar and blood pressure, and improving cholesterol levels
- Appearing more toned
While exercise is not the main cause of weight loss, it does appear important for preventing regain. Most people who successfully lose and keep off a lot of weight exercise regularly.
Types of Exercise: Cardio, Resistance Training, and Flexibility
You’re probably familiar with cardio or aerobic exercise. It gets your heart rate up and makes you breathe faster and more deeply. Brisk walking may be the most common cardio exercise. It’s a great choice because it’s a natural movement, it doesn’t require much more equipment than walking shoes and comfy clothes, and you can do it almost anywhere - even indoors, on a treadmill.
These are other possibilities for aerobic exercise.
- Swimming is non-weight-bearing and a good choice if you have pain in your joints.
- The elliptical machine and stationary biking are low-impact and often good for bariatric patients.
- Aerobics classes, kickboxing, cardio dance, and other group fitness classes can make things more interesting.
Resistance, or strength, training helps build muscle strength. Weight lifting may come to mind, such as with dumbbells, barbells, or weight machines. Examples of exercises include bicep curls, shoulder presses, bench press, leg press, and tricep extensions.
You can also use resistance bands, kettlebells, and household objects, such as water bottles to add resistance. Your own body weight can offer a lot of resistance, with exercises including squats, dips, lunges, floor or wall push-ups, and planks.
Stretching and yoga can help with your flexibility. This can help you feel better after working out, and also help prevent injuries and improve balance.
Steps to Getting Back to Exercise After Bariatric Surgery
The most important thing when getting back to exercising is to do it safely. Make sure you have your surgeon’s approval for each new activity you add, and always ask an expert to demonstrate proper form for new moves, especially for resistance training. Following those precautions can help prevent injury.
Most bariatric surgery patients can get up and walk almost immediately after surgery. Do it as much as you can so you can progress more quickly. You can gradually lengthen your walks and start to walk faster. If you’re ready, you can add in additional cardio activities, always being sure to start slowly and build up only when your body is ready.
After several weeks, your surgeon may give you the go-ahead to start light resistance training. Be sure you know your limit for how much weight you are allowed to lift. It can be a good goal to start with two sessions per week and work up to three. You will likely be able to add in flexibility exercises when your pain level allows for it.
More Tips for Exercising After Bariatric Surgery
These tips can help make exercise more effective.
- Always be sure you know how to do exercises properly before trying them. Form is important.
- Exercise can make you feel hungrier, so be sure you do not “out-eat” your exercise.
- Be sure to take in as much protein as your surgeon recommends. The BariatricPal Store has a range of protein supplements including shakes, bars, entrees, snacks, and shots.
- Vitamin and mineral deficiencies can put a damper in your exercise program, so be sure to take your bariatric supplements as recommended. The BariatricPal Store has supplements such as Multivitamin ONE and Calcium Chews, among other bariatric-friendly vitamins and minerals.
Exercise can help you reach your goals after surgery, but it’s important to go back to exercises carefully. The BariatricPal Store has protein, vitamins, and minerals to support your active lifestyle after surgery. Be sure to check out our collections as you get healthy and active.