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Aerobic exercise, also known as cardiovascular exercise, is an essential component of bariatric exercise. This is any type of exercise that is hard enough to increase your heart rate. In aerobic exercise, the muscles use energy that is derived from breakdown of sugar or fat in the presence of oxygen.

The muscles during exercise require higher blood flow in order to get more oxygen and nutrients (sugar), the heart is therefore influenced by some of the flight and fight hormones to beat faster and pump more blood. The rate and pattern of your breathing is also altered (you begin to breathe faster and deeper) to increase the availability of oxygen to the muscles and to effectively evacuate the excess carbon dioxide that is produced by the exercising muscles. When you engage in aerobic activities frequently, your heart and lungs adapt to this state and function optimally.

In addition, aerobic exercise also improves mental health. Studies have shown that moderate to high intensity exercises reduce anxiety and depression. Improves self-esteem and prevents social withdrawal. This is partly due to increase blood flow to the brain.

Aerobic (cardiovascular) exercise varies in intensity. You will surely break a sweat but if the exercise becomes intense, you will become aware of your heart beat (palpitation) and conversation may become difficult due to your fast breathing. Joint problems such as osteoarthritis are often common among obese individuals and these may prevent them from doing certain cardiovascular exercises that place too much demand on the joints. They can however go for the low-impact aerobic exercises which offer the same benefits but minimal stress on the joints.

Apart from the benefit of helping to lose weight, cardiovascular exercise as recommended by the American Heart Association, has been found to be beneficial in reducing the risk of cardiovascular morbidity (stroke, myocardial infarction) and mortality. The recommendation is that of 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week. This can be achieved by engaging in cardiovascular exercise for 30 minutes in a day for 5 days per week. The daily exercise can also be broken into smaller durations.

The following are examples of cardiovascular exercise.

Brisk walking

Walking is the safest low-impact aerobic exercise that is most convenient for most people. Brisk walking for 30 minutes per day in most days of the week will lower your blood pressure, improve your cardiovascular health, and make your muscles stronger. You can however walk more as you gradually build your strength.


As fun as dancing can be, it can help you shed more weight and improve your mental and physical wellbeing. This can be done indoor or outdoor. It will improve the flexibility of your muscles and joints and also help you burn some calories


Running is another aerobic exercise that is beneficial after bariatric surgery. You get all the benefits of walking from running. In addition you will lose more weight when you run as running requires more energy than walking and therefore more calories will be burnt. In fact, you will burn twice the calorie when you run than when you walk for the same duration. However, running is a form of high-impact aerobic exercise. Do not start with running first. Start your workout with walking and later proceed to jogging before you start running. This will reduce the risk of injury.


Bicycling is a cardiovascular exercise that also helps build the strength of your gluteal and leg muscles without placing additional stress on your joints. It is good to choose a traffic free location to engage in bicycling. Stationary bicycles at the gym can also serve this purpose.


If you know how to swim, then you have an advantage over those who don’t. Even after walking, jogging or running, you can still engage in swimming to get your body cooled. It does not burn much calorie and therefore not much effective for optimizing weight loss. Nevertheless, it strengthens the muscles of your back, shoulder and arm. Also if you are suffering from osteoarthritis, swimming may be a better exercise as it does not put stress on your weight bearing joints.

Other aerobic exercises include: aquarobics, rowing, Use of elliptical machines, jumping rope, etc. Always consult your doctor before you commence any exercise to be sure you are physically fit. Also visit the hospital if you sustain any injury during your workout.