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Whether you are considering bariatric surgery or already have had bariatric surgery, having a physically active lifestyle and balanced nutrition is vital to your long-term success. Once you have had bariatric surgery, you will be physically limited in what you can do for a while, so your body has a chance to heal. Some patients are excited to begin working out after surgery, others might be hesitant about exercise post-surgery.
Exercising can help you lose more weight and keep it off after surgery. Your body naturally sheds both fat and muscle when you lose weight. You must exercise after bariatric surgery so you can preserve your lean muscle and keep enough muscle to stay healthy.
Exercising also helps shorten recovery time for patients and reduces the risk of complications post-surgery. Additionally, physical activity helps improve your mood and reduces risk. The people that exercise lose more weight and have an easier time maintaining their weight than those who do not.
The following timeline is an exercise program recommended to bariatric surgery patients.
Right After Surgery
After your surgery, you should focus on three key areas of exercise: cardio, strength training, and flexibility. You must start slow because your body is recovering. Do not walk for more than 15 minutes at a time and gradually progress over the next few weeks toward your fitness goals which should include cardio and strength training.
If the surgery was laparoscopic, it is safe to start exercising up to your pain threshold two weeks after surgery, but consult with your surgeon beforehand. If it was open surgery, it may take several more weeks to recover.
The following tips are for those that had an open procedure:
- During the first six weeks, do not lift more than 15 pounds.
- Do not do abdominal exercises for several weeks so that it allows time for your body to heal.
- Check with your surgeon before beginning any new exercises.
Two to Six Weeks After
You can start low-impact exercise now that your body is healing. Some examples include leg lifts, hamstring stretches, arm rotations, and shoulder rolls. These are great for building your strength and flexibility. You can also increase your walk time or walk more quickly.
Two great exercises to consider are cycling and water workouts because they are easy on the joints. It is important to build moderate cardio workouts as your body heals and gets stronger. By now you should aim to work out five days a week for 30 minutes a day.
If at any point you feel chest pain or tightness, stop immediately and call your doctor. Do not try to work through it. Remember to listen to your body and follow the surgeon’s recommendations for an exercise program.
Six Weeks and Beyond
Once you have reached week six post-bariatric surgery, it is important to start to add strength training in your workout at least two days per week. Strength training exercises are important because as you lose weight you will lose muscle.
Some great exercises include squats, lunges, yoga, dancing, and aerobics. You should be doing cardio at least five days a week from 30 minutes to an hour while adding at least two strength training workouts each week. Make sure that you do not target the same muscle groups back-to-back.
Make sure that you keep pushing yourself as you progress. Your body will begin to adapt to exercises so challenge yourself so that you have an effective workout.
New to Exercising? Here Is How to Start
If you have never had an exercise routine, you want to start with small goals. Start with some movement and make sure that each day you are doing more than the day before. For example, start with 15 minutes and then increase by a 5-minute increment if possible. You will get burned out and can hurt yourself if you do a 60-minute workout for the first time. Taking small steps and making gradual increases in the length of your workout is key.
A Pedal Exerciser is great for beginners or people with limited mobility and allows you to work out anywhere you can find a seat. Hula Hoops are another effective and fun exercise for bariatric surgery patients. Swimming is another option to consider, especially if you are still overweight because of how easy it is on your joints.
How to Prevent Problems
Skin problems such as loose and sagging skin might occur as you lose more weight. The sagging skin and possible rashes can make it uncomfortable or even painful to exercise. Here are a few things to do to keep the chafing to a minimum:
- Apply gel to sensitive areas or skin folds to lessen friction while exercising. I recommend Body Glide For Her Anti Chafe Balm.
- Wear supportive clothing and undergarments.
- Stay hydrated and drink regularly.
Another common problem is joint and back problems. Here are a few things to keep in mind to help.
- You must wear the right type of shoes because these make a huge difference.
- Always warm up before exercising and cool down afterward.
- Keep your heart rate within the right range. You can use a heart rate monitor or manually take your pulse. You will want to take 220 and subtract your age. That is the maximum rate your heart should beat while you are exercising. If you’re exceeding that amount you need to back off until your rate is 60 to 90% of that level.
To have long-term success with your weight-loss surgery, a lifelong exercise program is critical. Although bariatric surgery is a great tool for losing weight rapidly, the weight can return if a physically active lifestyle has not been adopted. If you stick to your exercise program, you will be in overall good health and at a healthy weight for years after your bariatric surgery.
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