When starting your weight loss journey, you may wonder how to exercise after bariatric surgery. Your exercise routine actually starts right after the surgery by taking small walks and climbing stairs. In time, you need to increase the density of your workouts.
In two weeks you can start light exercises such as yoga, stretching, or swimming. Then you can move on to higher-density workouts, including cardio CrossFit, or fitness.
The most important factor is the commitment to regular exercise, which will play a key role in your long-term success. Fortunately, with proper guidance, you can gradually increase your strength in a safe manner. It’s important to stick to your exercise plan, listen to your body, and follow your personal trainer’s advice and recommendations.
In this article on training after bariatric surgery, we will explore the benefits of different types of exercise and consider important issues that may apply to you. We will also give you some practical tips to help you start your adventure with fitness. We will guide you through postoperative exercises, their starting points, and gradual strength building. Are you ready to take a closer look at how to exercise after bariatric surgery?
Let’s start a new, healthy chapter of your life together!
Understanding exercise guidelines after bariatric surgery
Especially if you are not familiar with exercise routines or don’t know how to schedule a routine, understanding the general guidelines will help you enormously. First of all, it is important to understand the purpose of exercising after bariatric surgery. Exercising helps you lose weight but for bariatric patients, physical activity is actually for post-op recovery. It absolutely helps you lose weight, but your focus should be on improving your health and accelerating your recovery process. We need to talk about two things to understand the general guidelines:
- Gradual progression
- Types of exercises
Exercising puts stress on the body in a good way. However, your body should be ready to be exposed to this stress. That’s why, what you need to do is listen to its signals, start with low-impact exercises and when you are ready, you need to move on to higher-impact exercises. Gradual progression will accelerate your recovery and prepare your body to be more active.
There are three types of exercises and all of them have great physical and mental benefits. These exercises are low-impact exercises, cardiovascular exercises, and strength exercises. After your surgery, you’ll start and do low-impact exercises for a month. These low-impact exercises include walking, stretching, and swimming. Then you can move on to cardiovascular exercises such as CrossFit and running. Strength exercises are high-impact exercises and they include workouts such as fitness, weight training, and calisthenics.
You can try each of them and decide which one is a better fit for you. After trying them all, you can also combine these exercises and schedule a program for yourself. If you feel too confused about setting such a plan, you can always get help from personal trainers. They will schedule your program, track your progress, follow your routine, and check your form during exercises.
Do you necessarily need to work out after surgery?
No, working out after bariatric surgery is not a necessity but a very beneficial part of your recovery process. The general belief of society is that exercises are done to lose weight. However, with bariatric patients, weight loss by doing exercises is just a positive side effect. Having an exercise routine accelerates your recovery process. That’s why exercising is highly suggested after bariatric surgery.
What are the benefits of exercising after bariatric surgery?
Here’s what exercising does to your body:
- INCREASES PHYSICAL ENDURANCE
- PROVIDES BETTER SLEEP QUALITY
- PREVENTS MUSCLE LOSS AND INCREASING METABOLISM
- HELPS WITH LONG-TERM WEIGHT MAINTAIN
- INCREASES ENDORPHIN AND DOPAMINE LEVELS
- IMPROVES HORMONAL BALANCE
- IMPROVES HEART HEALTH
- IMPROVES INSULIN SENSITIVITY
You should definitely consult with your doctor and a qualified trainer. This way you will get personalized guidance based on your individual needs that will help you form a more ordered lifestyle.
Increasing physical endurance
Exercising after bariatric surgery can also strengthen your physical endurance. Thanks to a regular workout, your body will adapt to the demand. This will lead to higher energy levels, making it easier to engage in sports activities and enjoy a more active lifestyle.
Provides better sleep quality
Exercising reduces stress on the body and this leads you to a better quality sleep. Also, there is much research showing that weight loss decreases sleep apnea problems. However, interesting research is done on people who do exercise but did not lose weight at all. This group also showed reduced symptoms of sleep apnea only by exercising.
Preventing muscle loss and increasing metabolism
Working out also makes you gain muscles, and as a result, prevents muscle loss too. Especially resistance training helps preserve muscle mass and results in weight loss that comes primarily from fat rather than muscle tissue. As a result, you burn more fat instead of losing weight which includes muscle loss.
As you have more muscle mass, your metabolic rates increase. Let’s put it in a simpler way. Even if you are in a coma let’s say, you will still burn calories. Because your organs also need calories to work. The least amount of calories you need (coma mode) is calculated by muscle mass. If you have more muscle mass, you burn more calories. With exercising, you’ll build more muscle mass and your body will consume more calories. This will lead to fat loss only. Also, an increased metabolism helps you digest better and more regularly.
Helps with long-term weight maintain
Maintaining your weight is basically about two things; maintaining your diet and your metabolism. With combined physical activity and a well-balanced diet, maintaining your weight after the fat loss will be easy for you. With the increased muscle mass, you’ll burn more calories and if you keep up with your post-surgery eating habits, you’ll be consuming only what your body needs. Not less, not more.
Increasing endorphin and dopamine levels
When you’re done with your exercise, your dopamine and endorphin levels increase. It’s because the brain detects exercising as a task. When you complete the task, the brain thinks it achieved something. This releases the dopamine hormone. During exercise, as you push yourself, your body feels like it’s under stress and this leads to endorphin release which is a natural painkiller and a mood booster. Eventually, after a workout, even though you are tired, you feel happy.
Improving hormonal balance
Exercising not only regulates sex hormones but also endocrine hormones. These hormones can be discussed in three fields: thyroid, insulin, and productive system. These hormones state your overall health as they act together and play a major role in almost every aspect of your body.
Excess fat irregulates almost every gland. Your testosterone level drops, your insulin increases, and so do thyroid hormones. Exercising regulates each of these hormones either by muscle protein synthesis or by regulating blood flow and leading to better organ function. Better organ function directly means more regulated and balanced hormone production and release.
Improving heart health
Regular exercise strengthens the heart muscle and improves its efficiency. During the workout, your heart rate increases, which leads to improved blood circulation, reduced resting heart rate, and better cardiac output.
Improves insulin sensitivity
Exercising not only helps the heart but also wakens all other organs to function better. Pancreas is one of these organs. The insulin is produced there. When the pancreas does not function normally, it produces an extreme amount of insulin and this leads to insulin resistance. Regular exercise helps the pancreas function better, which results in regular insulin production and reduces insulin resistance.
When to start exercising after bariatric surgery
Right after bariatric surgery, the first focus is to relieve gas. That’s why you will need to do 5-minute walks frequently. Those five-minute walks will be your first exercises after your surgery. After being discharged, you’ll need to walk more and more frequently. This way your body will start to adapt to being active. After a while, daily activities aside, you may want to start working out.
You’ll need to increase the density of your workouts but you’ll still be in your recovery. You may then wonder if is it safe to do certain exercises. You can start with a light workout such as yoga and swimming between 2 and 6 weeks after your bariatric procedure. Doctors generally recommend avoiding strenuous exercises, such as cardio, pilates, and weight lifting, for a period of 6 to 8 weeks until your full recovery. Yet, everyone is unique, so it is always best to consult with your doctor.
Start with low-impact activities and slowly increase the intensity and duration. Give your body time to heal, so don’t push yourself too hard at first. Increase the intensity, duration, and frequency of your workouts gradually as you build stamina and strength. Challenge yourself as well, but always listen to your body and avoid overexertion.
Listen to your body and be aware of the warning signs
It is important to pay attention to the signals your body gives during exercise. Keep in mind that the main objective of exercise following bariatric surgery is to enhance overall fitness, support weight loss, and facilitate long-term weight maintenance. Do not overdo it.
You have to be able to recognize warning signs of overexertion. If you experience discomfort or other unusual symptoms during or after exercise, stop immediately. Dizziness, nausea, a strong heartbeat, sudden pain, or constant pain may indicate that you should stop. Consult with your doctor and seek medical attention if needed.
What kind of exercises can I do?
In the first few weeks of recovery, it’s important to rest and let your body heal. You can begin with light activities such as short walks. As your recovery advances and your surgeon approves, you can then slowly increase the intensity and duration of your exercise. The length of this progression will vary based on your overall health and the specific surgery you had. Let’s now discuss the different types of physical activity you can do after your bariatric procedure:
|Exercise||When to start|
|Walking & running||right after the surgery, gradually|
|Yoga & stretching||after 2 weeks|
|Swimming||after 2 weeks|
|Pilates||after 6 weeks|
|CrossFit||after 8 weeks|
|Fitness & bodybuilding||after 8 weeks|
Walking & running
|Activity||Approx. burned calories|
|A slow walk||250 calories/hour|
|A brisk walk||390 calories/hour|
|A moderate run||750 calories/hour|
During your post-op recovery period, it is common to experience discomfort. Yet, engaging in light physical exercise, such as gentle walking for 5-10 minutes per day, can be beneficial for your health. This exercise routine can be repeated two times a day at the beginning of your healing period. There is no need to overload yourself.
You can start walking and using stairs even before you leave the hospital. Increase your physical activity gradually, and with time add jogging if running is what you enjoy. Remember, your body is recovering, so follow the advice of your physician and listen to your body carefully. Don’t push yourself too hard!
Of course, walking will not stop after your hospital stay. You’ll start walking more and more frequently over time. Then it will become a daily activity for you. At that time, walking is no longer considered a workout.
Yoga & stretching
|Activity||Approximately burned calories|
|Light yoga||230 calories/hour|
Adding light yoga to your exercise routine can have various benefits, including improved flexibility, range of motion, and balance. It is a low-impact form of exercise that is particularly important after a surgical procedure. It helps enhance physical strength and overall mobility, reducing the risk of potential injuries.
What’s more, some yoga positions ease pain in muscles and joints. You can try them if you’re suffering from joint pains.
Stretching and light yoga can assist in body awareness and help with regaining a sense of control. Being less intense than other forms of exercise, it can still be good for muscle adjustment during the recovery process following surgery.
Yoga and stretching are known to strengthen core muscles and improve the mind-body connection. Additionally, deep breathing during these practices can enhance lung capacity. Add these gentle exercises after 2 to 4 weeks from your surgery, but consult with a doctor to ensure safety and healed wounds.
|Activity||Approximately burned calories|
|Light to moderate swimming||530 calories/hour|
|Intense swimming||890 calories/hour|
Swimming is considered a low-impact exercise. For this reason, it can be a suitable option after bariatric surgery. The water can help reduce stress on incisions and abdominal muscles, facilitating movement and exercise.
Additionally, it provides a comprehensive workout that can enhance strength, endurance, and flexibility. It effectively engages multiple muscle groups, including the arms, legs, and core. Swimming promotes overall fitness and assists in your weight loss objectives.
Swimming is permitted once the surgical wounds have fully healed and the risk of infection is gone, typically around 2 to 4 weeks after the surgery. Doctors recommend swimming to their bariatric patients.
|Activity||Approximately burned calories|
|Light pilates||240 calories/hour|
|Intense pilates||450 calories/hour|
Pilates focuses on strengthening the core, so it is definitely one of the viable options for you after bariatric surgery. It will help you maintain your form and help in losing your weight. Pilates improves your posture, increases flexibility, as well as decreases your joint and back pain.
Doctors typically recommend avoiding strenuous exercises, like pilates, for a period of 6 to 8 weeks until full recovery. Yet, it’s important to note that each patient is different, and your doctor will provide guidance on when it is safe to introduce different exercises into your routine.
|Activity||Approximately burned calories|
|Full-body CrossFit||500 calories/hour|
|Intense full-body CrossFit||800 calories/hour|
CrossFit is a form of exercise that combines cardio and light weights for a high-intensity workout. It can help in your weight loss and muscle building.
Incorporating high-impact and high-intensity activities, such as CrossFit can be beneficial. Yet again, it is crucial that you allow your body sufficient time for recovery. Wait at least 8 weeks after the procedure before engaging in any form of high-intensity workout.
Keep in mind though that in the case of CrossFit you should get help from a professional. Correct form is crucial while doing these kinds of exercises. A mistake can lead to a potentially high risk of injury.
Fitness & bodybuilding
|Activity||Approximately burned calories|
|Low-impact aerobics||455 calories/hour|
|Resistance training/weightlifting||455 calories/hour|
Start slowly, progress gradually, and focus on cardiovascular exercise, since it is crucial for burning calories. Including resistance exercises in your workout routine can help increase muscle mass, improve metabolism, and support weight loss. Consider incorporating exercises such as squats, lunges, and push-ups using weights, resistance bands, or body weight.
Plan a maximum of 1,5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise 4-5 days per week, for several weeks following your surgery. Remember that overworking regresses muscle building. Your body needs to rest. On your rest days, you can be daily active rather than working out.
It is important to keep in mind that your process of recovering after bariatric surgery will differ from others. We always advise you to consult with a professional before initiating any exercise program.
Home workout vs gym workout
After bariatric surgery, both home and gym workouts can have their advantages. Your decision can of course depend on many factors, such as preferences, accessibility, budget, and your post-surgery condition. A combination of both home and gym workouts may also be an option for you.
- If you can be consistent at home
- If you are low on budget
- If you have the proper tools at home
- If it’s difficult for you to go to the gym
- If you prefer a relaxing atmosphere
- If going to the gym motivates you
- If you don’t mind paying for the gym
- If you need to use the gym’s equipment
- If you have easy access to the gym
- If dedicated space is more important for you
Importance of having a personal trainer
Gyms have trainers who can offer you their support and guidance. This is especially helpful after the surgery or when you start to exercise as a beginner. A professional trainer in a gym can assist you with creating a personalized workout plan that takes into account your specific needs, goals, and limitations.
A personal trainer can teach you how to perform exercises correctly, helping you avoid potential injuries. Thanks to their help you will maximize the effectiveness of your workouts. They can also provide modifications or alternative exercises and help with your safe transition into your new exercise routine.
Overcoming challenges and concerns you may have
Many people say starting working out was like a fresh start for them. Before starting anything new, you may have some concerns or questions. Overcoming them will help you be mentally ready and give you a better start. Let’s check some common concerns people have:
1. What if you can’t be consistent at working out?
Starting new exercise habits and sticking to them can be very challenging. You may not be a fan of fitness and so need extra motivation to start your new exercise program. Adding enjoyable activities such as joining a swimming club or getting a gym membership are effective strategies.
Generally, people who don’t have a gym membership tend to postpone their workouts. You can join a gym that is near to your house or work. Having a schedule and a workout program make it easier to be consistent. Also, a good personal trainer can do wonders!
2. What if you feel uncomfortable?
Have you ever heard of the term “gymtimidation“? This term is used for people who get intimidated by going to the gym. It is really common to feel anxious or uncomfortable in the gym. Knowing how to cope with these kinds of discomfort will help you complete a more focused workout.
When searching for a place to work out, it is important to find one that is inclusive, supportive, and welcoming. The staff should be helpful, understanding, and able to answer all your questions. Certain gyms may also provide specialized programs for bariatric surgery patients. You can also talk to others who have undergone similar surgeries. They can give you advice and motivation.
3. What if you feel hungry after the workout and want to eat more?
While exercising you burn a lot of calories, so your body needs energy. This obviously makes you hungry, which is perfectly normal. In the long run, your faster metabolism leads to eating more. Contrary to the old belief that eating food directly after working out leads to weight gain, it is actually good for muscle restoration. After working out, your fat burn continues. If your sugar level drops and you feel you need to eat, you definitely should. There is nothing to worry about since it will not lead to weight gain. Your body will no longer be in the survival mood and the fat burn will stop or slow down.
Stick to your bariatric diet and remember about nutrient-dense foods rich in vitamins and minerals. Focus on balanced meals that include a combination of protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates. Sometimes you can mistake thirst for hunger, so remember to stay properly hydrated before and after your exercises.
Implicate exercise in your daily routine and maintaining long-term goals
First of all, to make it a long-term routine, your focus should be on your health, not losing weight.
By setting small and attainable goals, you can get steady progress and remain motivated in the long term. Set some realistic goals that match both your fitness level and lifestyle choices.
Take your exercise sessions seriously and make them a part of your daily routine. Consistency is the key! Find a time that works for you and stick to the schedule. Find physical activities that you enjoy, such as running, swimming, dancing, or cycling. This will make it easier for you to stay committed.
To fit regular physical activity into your daily routine, opt for stairs instead of elevators and walk or bike for short distances instead of driving. Take regular breaks from sitting and make a point of stretching and moving around, especially if you sit a lot at work.
Consider trying different options for exercising, such as joining group classes either at the gym or online. Many people find these options more enjoyable than working out alone. If you prefer solo sports activities, you can choose a private instructor or get some online courses independently.
Look for a gym location that is convenient for you to access, such as a nearby sports center, park, or even your own home, if you prefer to exercise that way.
Fitness apps are useful as they track your progress and offer you reminders. You can evaluate your workout routines and receive guidance, motivation, and a sense of accomplishment. Over time, they can help you work towards your fitness goals.
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