Physical Activity the First 3 to 6 Months after Bariatric Surgery

Physical Activity the first three to six months after Bariatric Surgery

Bariatric patients will need to create a new lifestyle after surgery, that pair; healthy eating with regular physical activity. This will ensure that patients are maximizing their weight loss potential as well as building strength, flexibility and confidence as a foundation for their new bodies.

There are many various reasons why many people turn to bariatric surgery to help manage weight loss. Reasons include; gaining more control of health, reducing medications and discontinuing medications, reversing diagnosis and conditions surrounding health, having more mobility, flexibility and becoming more active, and being able to travel with ease. Regardless of the initial reason for bariatric surgery, patients must incorporate physical activity post surgery. 

Benefits for Bariatric Patients

One of the biggest benefits for bariatric patients, who embrace regular physical activity, is preserving lean muscle mass. When patients lose weight, they lose both fat and muscle. It is important to retain and build muscle mass, for continued weight loss. Having more muscle mass, can help burn more calories, and help speed up metabolism. Further driving weight loss and weight maintenance.

In another study from 2018, 

Researchers analyzed eight randomized controlled trials with data on the effects of physical exercise in obese patients (n = 347) aged ≥ 18 years who had undergone any type of bariatric surgery; the final review included patients who underwent roux-en-y gastric bypass, gastric banding, sleeve gastric, or lap band bariatric surgery. The intervention groups engaged in aerobic exercise, resistance training, or a combination of both for 1.3-4 hours a week for 12-26 weeks. 

The results were:

Exercise group patients had significantly greater weight loss than the patients who received no special exercise therapy. Exercise improved certain secondary outcomes as well. Patients who engaged in physical activity achieved lower BMI , smaller waist circumference, lower systolic blood pressure, and lower resting heart rate. 

physical activity after bariatric surgery

Overall Benefits of Physical Activity: 

  • Increased energy
  • Improved Cardiovascular health
  • Burning fat
  • Strengthening immune system
  • Detoxing through sweating
  • Relieving stress
  • Improved confidence and self esteem
  • Improved sleep quality
  • Regulating blood sugar 

Weight Loss and Burning Calories

There are a couple important factors to remember while going through rapid weight loss and burning calories through physical activity.

First, as patients lose weight, the amount of calories burned through exercise will also decrease.

Second, as patients lose weight, exercise will eventually become easier with practice, and in doing so, calories burned will decrease.

This is why it is important to challenge yourself; by increasing frequency, intensity and duration of exercise over time. Or by challenging yourself to try new activities, classes and sports.

Walking as a form of Physical Activity

As a post Bariatric patient; it is imperative that you move your body as soon as you can after surgery, (for blood circulation) and for the rest of your new life. It is crucial to work at increasing your activity level starting in your recovery stage through the rest of your life.

There are no excuses, not only is walking free, it is accessible to everyone.The faster, farther and more frequently you walk, the greater the benefits.

Benefits of Walking Tips for Proper Technique
Increase flexibility Head is up right and looking forward, not at the ground
Lose weight and help maintain healthy weight Neck, shoulders and back are relaxed
Prevent or manage various health conditions Swing arms freely with a slight bend in your elbows
Strengthen bones and muscles Breath in through the nose and out through the nose or mouth
Improved Mood Stomach muscles are slightly tightened and your back is straight, not arched forward or backward
Improve Balance and Coordination Walk smoothly, stepping your foot from heel to toe

Set realistic goals:

As a general goal, aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day. If that does not work; try several 10-minute sessions throughout the day, like during lunch time and breaks from work.

It is OK to start slowly. You might start with five minutes a day the first week, and then increase your time by five minutes each week until you reach your goal.

Track your progress:

Keep a record of steps, distance and length of time of any exercise. It can help identify where you started from and where you’re ultimately going. Invest in a pedometer or track steps on your phone. Regularly record your progress. To get more inspiration, invite friends and family to join.

General Exercise after Bariatric Surgery

As a general rule please check with your surgeon to be sure, but exercise for post bariatric patients can generally begin within three to six weeks following surgery.

  • You should begin walking for 20 to 30 minutes per day as soon as you get home. Walking does not need to be overly vigorous to be effective.
  • By the time you reach six weeks post-op, you should be able to complete three 10 minute walks per day while walking at a relatively quick pace. 
  • After week six, it may be time to begin a more intensive exercise routine including strengthening, flexibility and more aggressive endurance exercises.

Tips surrounding physical fitness as a post bariatric patient. 

Post-operative Physical Activity Recommendations:

  • Weeks 1-4 after surgery, focus on flexibility exercises, deep breathing and getting back into performing normal daily activities.
  • During the first six weeks after surgery, do not lift more than 15 lbs.
  • Increase daily activity; some examples, wash the dishes by hand, vacuuming, washing your car, light yard work, park further away, try using the stairs, etc.
  • Start slow and gradually progress over time until you’re exercising 60 minutes a day, three days per week.
  • Try to avoid exercises that would create stress on your joints; like jogging or jumping. Especially if your BMI is over 35
  • Gradually incorporate low-intensity aerobic exercise (Walking, Biking, Yoga, Pilates or Dancing). 
  • Aim your strength training for 2-3 sets, at 12-15 repetitions. Use light to moderate weights, to maintain lean muscle.
  • Focus full body strength training. Train 1-3 times per week (a minimum of once per week), and leave 48 hours between strength training days. Recovery days are where the body and muscle rebuilds itself.
  • Joint pain is not healthy pain. If the exercise causes pain, modify or discontinue.
  • If you have joint limitations in your legs, try to perform your strength exercises sitting down.
  • Rotate your exercise routine every 4-6 weeks (flexibility, stretching, cardio, strength training) 

Tips Aiding Success for all Forms of Exercise

  • Start slow
  • Wear comfortable clothing and invest in great walking shoes
  • Stay hydrated
  • Monitor your heart rate
  • Track your steps (10,000 is the goal daily, after 8 weeks)
  • Warm up and cool down
  • Set, track and update goals regularly (once you reach a goal, find and set a new target)
  • Workout with a partner (catch up with a friend and to help with accountability)
  • Be consistent (calendar workouts)
  • Mix up routine (walk around your neighborhood, on a track, on a treadmill, in a park or anywhere else outdoors)
  • Share your progress
  • Keep pushing yourself

Be sure to consult your Doctor when you are ready to exercise again, they can help direct you safely and offer tips and techniques to help reach your goals.

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