When and How to Start Exercise After Bariatric Surgery

Let me, as a bariatric surgeon, tell you the most important thing about bariatric surgery: you won’t achieve your ideal result unless you change your lifestyle both before and after a weight-loss operation.

So, if you’re not ready to do regular exercise after bariatric surgery, either forget it right now or try to make yourself prepared for this lifetime change.

You cannot expect to lose most of your extra weight and stay fit for the rest of your life if you don’t change your mindset, eating habits, and the frequency of your physical activities.

If you’re ready to take this step but don’t know where to start, this is the right article to read. You have to know when to start exercise after surgery. Which activities are better for each step. Moreover, what are the benefits of a regular exercise plan, and how it guarantees sustained weight loss?

Benefits of Exercise after Weight-Loss Surgery

As Nietzsche’s famous saying suggests, “If you know the why, you can live anyhow.” So, before I give you the details about your exercise program, take a look at the reasons for doing regular activities.

– Sustained and rapid weight loss

– Reduction in the risk of heart disease

– Improving muscle strength

– Preventing post-op depression

– Increasing metabolic rate

– Improving your self-confidence and self-esteem

– Decreasing or eliminating post-op constipation

– Better wound healing

– Retaining mobility

– Improved joint stability

– Reducing the risk of cancer

– Improving blood circulation

– Tightening your muscles and skin

– Reducing the risk of blood clots

This list can go on and on because the benefits of being physically active are uncountable even for people who did not have weight loss surgery. Remember, after bariatric surgery, you become lighter, and moving becomes easier. And of course, as you have an active lifestyle, you become lighter and healthier. So, losing weight and work out are complementary. They both enhance each other and ultimately, increase the quality of your life.

When to Start Exercise after Bariatric Surgery

The answer depends on your type of surgery in addition to your individual circumstances. Your doctor might ask you to walk for a couple of minutes the day after the surgery. This walking time will be more over time.

Exercise after bariatric surgery

Types of Post-Operation Physical Activities

Bariatric patients have exercise routines tailored for themselves by their surgeon and their team of specialists. These routines include three main types of activities: Cardio, strength workout, and flexibility exercise.

Let’s see which activities belong to which group and you should start them at which point of your post-op life.

Cardio and Calorie Burning

Cardio activities mostly help you burn calories and get more energy. Other benefits of cardio exercise include:

– Better sleep

– Increase in blood flow

–  Protecting against Alzheimer

– Improving blood sugar control

– Enhancing sexual well-being

– Boosting metabolism

– Increasing self-confidence by producing more endorphins

– Improving your energy levels

– Better management of anxiety

Cardio Activities Early after Surgery

You should avoid heavy, too-long activities after surgery. Walking, swimming and cycling are beneficial cardio exercises for obese patients in the early stages of their post-op life.

Walking starts from the day after your surgery. But it should not be very long. Till the second or third week, it’d be better if you do not walk more than 20-30 minutes but keep it regularly even if it’s only 5-10 minutes a day. Walking decreases the risk of complications and expedites your recovery.

After the third week, you can add swimming and cycling to your exercise program. However, do not overdo it. The most important point about the type of your activities is that you should enjoy them. If you don’t like swimming or walking, there are many other cardio activities you can take in. It would be better if you do cardio exercises at least two days per week.

Look at this chart and find your favorite activity alongside the number of calories you burn during each one (This amount varies depending on weight loss surgery patients’ weight and the percentage of fat and muscles in your body).

155 lbs 185 lbs
Running 808 965
Jogging 492 587
Bicycling  596 710
Aerobic Exercises 492 587
Hiking 421 503
Swimming 492 587
Skipping Rope 562 671
Calisthenics 596 710

Muscle Strengthening Activities

When you lose weight, you should be careful to lose fat not muscles. Less fat is beneficial to your health, but you don’t want thin and weak muscles at all. Also, strengthening your muscles is one of the ways to enhance your lean muscle mass and lean body mass (total weight – fat mass).

Strength training is not just about stronger muscles, but also increasing our bone strength. Greater muscle mass and stronger bones is synonymous with being able to do more physical activities.

The main way to strengthen your muscles is by lifting weights. Of course, resistance training is also important. If your muscles are not that strong enough, you start with little steps. Use light weights, 1 to 5 pounds, and increase them once you feel the task is becoming easy for your muscle.

Some of the most popular muscle strengthening exercises are squats and lunges in addition to lifting weights. Don’t forget sit-ups and crunches. You can start with 3 sets of 15-20 reps. But adapt it with your body’s strength. You don’t want it to be too hard, but not too easy.

Let’s review strength training benefits for bariatric patients:

Flexibility Training

Flexibility training protects your body from any probable damages after a post-bariatric workout. You might feel tightening or pain in your muscles. If you feel sore or tight after your bariatric workout, flexibility training can help. It can also help you avoid straining yourself when you’re running or lifting weights.

The greatest flexibility exercise is stretching. Here are a few examples of stretching practices you can do at home:



One more tip: do NOT forget to warm-ups before starting your exercise and cool down after it’s finished. Also, don’t think you should keep this plan till 5 or 6 months after surgery. This is your new lifestyle forever 🙂

Does Exercise Help Excess Skin After Weight Loss Surgery?

Weight loss surgery helps you get rid of the excess fat stored in your body but leaves you with saggy skin. To what extent you face this challenge depends on different factors including your genes. But one of the ways that firm up your skin is muscle toning.

Obesity causes folds and rolls in your skin, especially in the abdominal area, breasts, and arms. But muscle toning tightens your skin, which results in less excess skin after weight loss. There are other solutions for this problem in case exercise is not enough. Take a look at the most effective solutions for saggy skin after bariatric surgery.

Your Frequently Asked Questions

I want to undergo weight loss surgery because I can’t lose weight with exercise, why do I have to do sports after the surgery?

After weight loss surgery, you don’t do exercise to lose weight. The main part of losing weight is gained because of your surgery and diet. As you’ve read in this blog post, lasting weight loss is only one of the benefits of an exercise routine in your post-operation life.

You can eliminate the complaints such as skin sagging and constipation that you will encounter after the surgery by exercising.

Is weight loss more successful if I do exercise?

Exercising can make your weight loss much more successful as it burns excess calories, fat and eliminates extra weight. If you want long-term success, you need exercise.

When can I do sports after gastric sleeve?

For a normal workout, you should wait for 2 to 3 weeks after surgery. But during this time you can take short simple walks.

Home workout or gym workout, which one is more effective?

It will be more convenient for you to start with home exercise to lose weight. As your weight loss level increases, you will be able to use the equipment in the fitness centers. You can also consult with a fitness professional if you feel you need motivation and guidance.

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