Bariatric surgery can be an effective tool when it comes to weight loss. However, strength training and exercise after bariatric surgery are necessary to the process as well. As such, it’s important to incorporate these types of exercise in a way that will ease you into a more active lifestyle.
Importance of Exercise & Strength Training After Bariatric Surgery
Exercise is an important part of post-op recovery, and it’s vital to weight loss. Remember that bariatric surgery isn’t a cure-all—it’s a stepping stone toward an entirely new lifestyle. Exercise and strength training are integral to making that transition.
Exercise—and in particular strength training—help to build lean muscle mass, improve joint health, and boost cardiovascular health, all while helping you maintain your course on your weight loss journey. Research generally supports this. One 2021 study, for instance, reviewed 22 training programs and found that postoperative exercise usually led to increased muscle strength, higher weight loss, and overall higher fitness levels.
How Long After Bariatric Surgery Can I Begin Exercising?
You should begin exercising within a few days after surgery. This should be simple, low-impact exercise since your body needs to heal, so limit yourself to walking for 10-15 minutes per day at first. Other low-impact movements, such as arm rotations and leg lifts, can also help you build up strength before you’re ready for more intense strength training workouts.
Lifting and Exercise Restrictions After Surgery
For the first month or so, you should avoid lifting more than 10-15 pounds. Balance exercises are also generally discouraged since your center of gravity will shift dramatically over the first six months after your operation.
Early on, strength training will usually be simple. Modified pushups, leg lifts, and so forth can help you ease into a more exacting weight training regimen, as can light cardio. You don’t need to exhaust yourself, but you should exert yourself in order to make progress.
Exercise Tips After Bariatric Surgery
As you ease into strength training and exercise after bariatric surgery, the following tips should help.
Use Dynamic Warm-Ups and Stretches
Dynamic stretches and other types of warm-ups are an important part of any exercise routine. They help your heart get ready to handle the upcoming exertion you’ll be doing while also providing added benefits. For instance, dynamic stretching has been shown to reduce post-workout stiffness and improve your range of motion, making injury less likely.
Gradually Build Up
As already stated, you’ll want to take it easy starting out. Begin with exercises that use your body’s weight as resistance, then slowly add light weights as you go. The point is to get the form down before you start diving into more intense exercises.
Get Adequate Rest
A vital part of any exercise routine is adequate rest. Working out slightly damages muscle tissue, and it’s the process of healing afterward that helps that tissue increase in mass. Because of this, you’ll want to exercise different muscle groups on different days, ideally allowing 48 hours for them to heal in between workout sessions. Short breaks during your workout routine also help you avoid overexerting yourself.
Use a Variety of Exercises
In order to strengthen your whole body, you’ll want to incorporate a variety of exercises into your routine. Sample exercises for bariatric surgery patients include:
- Water aerobics and swimming
- Walks, whether outside or on a treadmill
- Exercise machines
- Wrist or ankle weights
Again, start slow, then ramp up over the coming months to more intense workouts.
Be Careful with Balance
Balance exercises are usually best avoided immediately after surgery. As your body weight changes, so will your center of gravity, so you might not be stable for the first six months or so after your operation. This can help you avoid injury as you get used to physical exertion.
Finally, there’s no reason to go through this alone. A dietitian, personal trainer, and/or support group can make the journey easier as you gain people to advise you and support you over the course of your weight loss journey. One resource for Dr. Malladi’s patients is the Malladi Bariatrics & Advanced Surgery Support Group on Facebook, which provides a safe space of bariatric surgery patients to find encouragement.
Getting Support with Weight Loss
Bariatric surgery can be an effective step toward a healthy new lifestyle. Dr. Malladi has helped many people along their weight loss journey, and she can help you determine whether weight loss surgery is right for you.