When Can I Start Exercising after Bariatric Surgery
When Can I Start Exercising after Bariatric Surgery?

Exercise is an important component of helping you lose weight after weight loss surgery. Exercising after bariatric surgery is also critical in maintaining that weight loss long-term. Patients eager to jump-start their weight loss journey may wonder, "when can I start exercising after bariatric surgery?"

In this blog, we will give you guidelines for exercising after bariatric surgery, including the many health benefits of physical activity. 

Timeline to Start Exercising after Bariatric Surgery

You will begin walking around the same day as your bariatric procedure. Once you leave the hospital, we recommend our patients keep moving by walking for about 10 minutes at a leisurely pace. Movement will not only help you with the recovery process but will also prevent the risk of developing blood clots. 

I advise my patients to begin a light exercise routine at about a week post-op and gradually build up to more strenuous activities at about 2 to 3 weeks. Light exercises include walking or biking at a leisurely pace, lifting light weights, or doing water aerobics. 

We do not advise patients to lift any heavy objects over 10 to 15 pounds until three to four weeks post-op. Lifting heavy objects can cause stress and tension on the incisions that could result in tearing. 

If any activity is causing any pain at the incision site or the abdominal wall, you should avoid those exercises. But for the most part, everything is healed inside the body after a week or two, so any activity an individual may engage in will not cause any problems with your surgery incisions. It may be uncomfortable or cause pain, which would be a reason to avoid that type of activity, but it will not cause any detriment to your overall recovery and health. 

Exercising after Bariatric Surgery

Benefits of Exercise

There are many benefits to exercising after bariatric surgery. Aside from the obvious benefit of helping with weight loss (as long as you follow a healthy diet), exercise can effectively reduce your overall risk of developing chronic diseases and improve the management of health problems. Exercising after bariatric surgery also increases your muscle mass, and the more muscle you have, the more fat your body will burn while at rest. 

Additionally, exercise releases endorphins which can improve your mood and mental health. Studies have found that individuals who engage in regular and relatively intense physical activity also experience better sleep and more energy. 

Best Types of Exercises after Bariatric Surgery

There are many different forms of physical activity that you could begin incorporating into your daily and weekly routine. 

1. Aerobic and Cardio. Any form of cardiovascular exercise that increases your heart rate. This can include running, biking, swimming, dancing, playing a sport, etc. Aerobic exercises are great for strengthening your heart and lungs while also burning calories. Traditionally aerobic exercises focus more on endurance training vs. sprint training. 

2. High-Intensity Interval Training: HIIT is a form of exercise focusing on short and strenuous efforts followed by a quick recovery. The goal is to elevate your heart rate to burn the same calories as you would doing an aerobic exercise in less time.

3. Yoga and Pilates: Yoga and Pilates are a form of exercise that reduces the impact on your joints through slow and controlled movements. Pilates and yoga are great for strengthening your muscles, improving flexibility, and correcting your posture.

4. Strength Training: Strength training increases muscle mass and helps burn body fat, even when you aren't working out! Resistance training, plyometrics, weightlifting, cross-fit, and calisthenics are all forms of strength training.

5. Stability and Balance: These exercises are designed to strengthen your muscles and improve your balance and coordination.

6. Flexibility:  Focusing on your flexibility is crucial for muscle recovery and injury prevention. Stretching will also help you maintain your range of motion. 

We highly recommend you begin exercising after bariatric surgery to improve your recovery and support your weight loss goals. Within the first six months of surgery, we advise patients to engage in aerobic activities for at least 30 minutes a day, 3 to 5 times a week. After six months, patients can begin increasing the intensity and duration of their workouts and also start to include strength training. 

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Mike Blaney, MD
Dr. Mike Blaney is a board-certified surgeon with over 20 years of experience in general and bariatric surgery. He is the founding physician of Live Healthy MD which has since been acquired by HCA and now operates under the name Doctors Specialists – Bariatrics and Surgical. Dr. Blaney is co-founder and CEO of Bariatric Centers of America and is fueled by a passion to cure the disease of obesity.
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