Exercising After Weight Loss Surgery: What Should You Expect?

Recovery after bariatric surgery

The recovery process following bariatric surgery is largely dependent on which procedure a patient chooses to undergo. Overall recovery time varies widely from procedure to procedure; for instance, some surgeries are outpatient, so patients can return home on the same day as their surgery, while others require a hospital stay of two to three days. Depending on the procedure, patients can expect a full recovery in roughly four to six weeks.

During the recovery process, patients will experience significant changes both internally and externally. Some of the biggest changes for patients following bariatric surgery are those in the realms of diet and exercise. One of the key components of bariatric surgery is its ability to induce rapid weight loss, which makes exercise easier than before surgery, allowing patients to incorporate physical activity into their daily routine.

Will I have to exercise after surgery?

The success or failure of bariatric surgery is inextricably linked to a patient’s willingness and ability to adhere to strict diet and exercise guidelines following surgery. These procedures are not cure-alls for obesity; optimal outcomes require focus and dedication from patients as they change their lifestyle in the months and years following surgery to induce and maintain healthy weight loss. Therefore, it is essential that patients, in conjunction with their medical team, develop and adhere to a realistic exercise regimen following surgery.

When you can start exercising:

It is advisable to take it slow immediately following bariatric surgery; the body is still recovering in the days and weeks following the procedure, so it is critical patients not place undue stress on their healing bodies. It is best to begin with short, comfortable walks immediately following surgery and slowly build time, intensity, and variation into your exercise regimen as allowed by your body and approved by your physician. Honoring the delicate balance between the demands of a healing body and the desire to exercise will ensure safety and produce optimal outcomes in the long-term.

How much exercise should you get?

The amount of exercise that is appropriate for patients following bariatric surgery is largely dependent on their individual abilities, their goals, and how far removed they are from surgery. It is important to consult your surgeon and ancillary healthcare providers when developing an exercise program to ensure it is adequate and safe to support your weight loss goals. Generally speaking, exercise should be “scaled up,” meaning patients do what they can in the beginning and build from that baseline, making sure to not overextend themselves too soon following surgery.

What type of exercise should you do?

When building an exercise regimen, patients should focus on exercises that train the following three areas: cardiovascular health, strength and flexibility. Cardiovascular training burns calories, increases energy levels, and boosts metabolism; examples of cardiovascular exercises are walking, cycling, and jogging. Strength training, like free weights and bodyweight exercises, builds lean muscle mass, which helps the body burn calories, strengthen the musculoskeletal system, and build and maintain the muscle mass required for living an active life. Finally, increasing flexibility is important to help your body prevent injury during cardiovascular exercises and strength training by elongating and strengthening muscles, tendons and ligaments.

Developing and following a comprehensive exercise program following bariatric surgery is essential to ensuring optimal outcomes. Patients should work closely with their medical team to create a safe, effective program that is individually tailored to their needs and abilities. Doing so will help patients achieve and maintain optimal weight loss in the years following their weight loss surgery.