Exercises After Bariatric Surgery

exercise after bariatric surgery

Bariatric surgeries are procedures that help individuals lose weight. This term encompasses many different types of weight loss surgery and also non-surgical procedures such as gastric balloons and endoscopic sleeve gastroplasty. If you are planning to undergo any type of weight-loss procedure, it will be essential that you maintain a consistent routine of physical activity for your weight loss to be successful. Today we are going to talk about the importance of exercise after bariatric surgery.

Why Should I Exercise After Bariatric Surgery?

The plethora of bariatric surgeries and procedures available to us today are powerful weight loss tools but they do not perform miracles. For patients to move forward in their life after bariatric surgery, they will need to make significant lifestyle changes including committing to a consistent, healthy diet, and exercise routine. Exercising after bariatric surgery provides many benefits for those who will be consistent and commit to a routine.

The Benefits of Post-Bariatric Surgery Exercise Include:

1. Losing the “Right” Kind Of Weight, and More of It!

According to studies conducted by the National Institute of Health, patients who had undergone weight loss surgery and continually exercised, reduced their body mass index (BMI) by almost 5% more than those who did not.

When our body begins to shed pounds, it will eliminate both muscle and fat. We do not want to lose muscle, so exercising is very important to help retain lean muscle and only eliminate fat. We wish to retain muscle not only for the definition it provides but also because muscles do many jobs including burning calories, attributing to strength and stamina, helping support bones and joints, aiding in the control of blood sugar levels, and many other capacities that help us to stay healthy.

2. Increases Energy Levels and Productivity

Incorporating a consistent exercise routine into your everyday life improves your blood circulation, aids your immune system to keep you from getting sick, strengthens your heart, increases stamina levels, and eventually makes it easier to fulfill your everyday activities. There have also been studies indicating regular exercise after bariatric surgery enhances your mental capabilities as well as your health. Many patients who have lost weight have reported that they could see a marked difference in their energy levels and ability to get things done within the first 3 months after their weight loss procedure. Even simple things like being able to play with their children at the park or going shopping did not take as much effort or leave them completely winded.

3. Enhances Mental Health

It has been scientifically proven that exercise produces endorphins, which are hormones naturally made by our bodies that create a feeling of calmness, wellbeing, and happiness. Many individuals who suffer from obesity also battle depression and anxiety for many different reasons. Going through weight loss surgery and incorporating all the necessary lifestyle changes involved is hard and can be overwhelming. Remaining consistent with your exercise routine will increase the blood flow to your brain which helps regulate depression, anxiety, and mood swings.

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What Is the Best Way to Exercise after Bariatric Surgery?

Now you know why it is so important to have a consistent and ongoing exercise routine, but what is the best way to start exercising after bariatric surgery? Flexibility, cardio, and strength training are three key elements that you need to gradually incorporate to be successful.

Flexibility and Stretching

Flexibility or stretching exercises will help you avoid injuries while doing other exercises, running, or lifting weights. Flexibility exercises after bariatric surgery increase the blood traveling to your muscles which helps prepare them for more strenuous exercise. It also increases your range of motion and loosens up your tendons. Just like you observe athletes doing before a competition or game, stretching helps improve performance. It is important that you are doing a routine that is tailored to your circumstances and that you are doing it the right way.

A physical therapist can help create a routine for you that can progressively become more challenging as you grow stronger.

Cardio for Bariatric Patients

Regular cardio gets your blood flowing to burn calories and boost your metabolism. It can also help lessen feelings of anxiety, help you sleep better, and can make you feel happy and confident. This is done through the magic of those endorphins we talked about earlier! Cardio also is good for heart and lung health and increases our ability to focus.

Cardio can be anything from walking, swimming, running, hiking, etc. Cardio is what burns calories, when calories are burned the result is weight loss. The exact numbers will vary for each individual but typically one must burn 3,500 more calories than are consumed to lose 1 pound. So for many that may mean cutting out 500 calories a day to lose a pound that week. Cutting out calories (eating less) or burning calories both help to lose fat but combining the two is a winning combination. To get an idea of what that looks like, here are some examples:

  • Walking 2 mph for 20 minutes burns 83 calories;
  • Doing housework for 20 minutes burns 63 calories;
  • Playing basketball (moderately) for 20 minutes burns 124 calories;
  • Jumping rope for 20 minutes burns 245 calories.

Weight/Strength Training

As we discussed previously, rapidly losing weight can also cause the loss of muscle. Strength training is what helps prevent some loss and helps build muscles. Muscle mass helps your body burn calories faster and more efficiently. Strength training exercises also help tone muscles that can help you develop core strength. Some strength training exercises include:

  • Lifting weights;
  • Lunges;
  • Squats;
  • Sit-ups;
  • Crunches.

When you begin adding strength training to your routine, you will slowly and gradually begin increasing your intensity.

FAQs About Exercise after Weight Loss Surgery

Do You Lose Muscle after Bariatric Surgery?

Yes. Normally, the first three months after a bariatric weight loss procedure patients rapidly lose about 33% of their excess body weight. When weight loss occurs this fast, muscle is also lost but exercise is a healthy and safe way to preserve as much muscle as possible.

How Soon Can You Work Out after Bariatric Surgery?

Many people have questions about the exercise timeline after bariatric surgery. Here is an overview of what you can typically expect:

Right after surgery – the short answer is your exercise routine will start right away, and before you leave the recovery room, the medical team will have you up and walking around. This is done to the blood flowing and prevent clotting, but it is also going to be the majority of your exercise routine for a few weeks.

Your medical team will create and provide you with an individualized program that outlines a safe post-surgical activity and exercises plan. Obviously, you will need to start slowly while your body is recovering, but the first exercise you will be instructed to focus on is walking.

After 2-4 weeks, your exercise routine will begin to include some light flexibility exercises and stretching such as shoulder rolls, arm rotations, hamstring stretches, etc. You will begin to lengthen your walks, and possibly pick up the pace.

When you reach 5-6 weeks, your body is continuing to strengthen and heal so it is now time to incorporate some cardio. Under the care of your doctor, you should begin exercising at least 5 days a week for 30 minutes a day. Water workouts or cycling may be a good choice as they are easier on the joints but your medical team can recommend activities that are good choices for you based on your circumstances.

When you get to the 7-8 week point, it is time to begin adding strength training 2 days a week. Lunges, squats, and lifting weights are excellent exercises after bariatric surgery. You should follow your doctor’s recommended plan and stop any activity that causes any sharp pain. You want to “feel a burn” but also need to respect your body and use common sense. If you begin to feel sick to your stomach, chest pressure, or become abnormally short of breath, stop immediately and contact your doctor.

You will continue with these key exercise categories increasing the length and intensity of your workouts as time goes on. Keep in mind, your body will naturally adapt to your level of activity and will begin burning fewer calories than it did previously with the same exercise levels. It will be necessary as you move forward to keep pushing yourself to do a little bit more each time.

How Can I Gain Muscle after Weight Loss Surgery?

Building muscle comes under the strength training category which is the last one to be added into your exercise routine after surgery. After you are sufficiently healed from the surgery, you can start slow and steady. If you try to use weights that are too heavy, too many repetitions, or train too frequently, you may injure yourself. As you gain strength, you can begin adding harder exercises, increasing the weights and the length of your workouts.

How Can I Tone My Arms after Weight Loss Surgery?

To give your arms a tighter appearance you can begin with strength training as muscle takes up more space under the skin. This can help reduce the look of loose skin while also providing tone and definition. Isolation exercises can help build up targeted muscle areas such as bicep curls, lateral shoulder raises, and overhead tricep extensions.

Can You Tighten Loose Skin after Weight Loss Surgery?

Often, drastic weight loss can cause loose or saggy skin. It is tough to predict if this will be an issue for you after your weight loss procedure. Each individual is different and is influenced by factors such as age, amount of weight lost, how fast weight is lost, genetics, level of aftercare, and more. Proper nutrition, hydration, and exercise programs can all help your body heal after weight loss surgery but may not resolve an excess amount of loose skin. Fortunately, there are cosmetic (body contouring) procedures, such as tummy tuck and non-surgical treatments like Bodytite available that can alleviate loose skin.

The team at the IBI Healthcare Institute will work with you during the entire process and ensure you have an exercise plan specifically created for you. Weight loss surgery and all the lifestyle changes it brings are challenging and require dedication and commitment. You deserve a better and healthier life, and we are here to support you as you work to attain your goals.

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