Exercise after bariatric surgery is an important factor in helping you to lose weight, tone and maintain muscle mass, and give measurable results and health benefits. Everyone starts their weight loss process and journey at different levels, and the same is true for an exercise plan. You do not need fancy workout clothes or expensive equipment. Invest in a good quality pair of walking shoes. Wear comfortable clothing and good undergarments that support your abdomen and skin; this will prevent any issues like irritation with skin folds. A good exercise plan will include aerobic or cardio exercise, which gets the heart rate up gradually, resistance or strength training, and flexibility or stretching.
When beginning your exercise journey, you should do the following:
- Set reasonable goals.
- Use a pedometer to help set a baseline and work at increasing little by little.
- Track your progress.
- Try to find a friend or exercise companion.
- Try to exercise at the same time every day.
- Start low and slow and gradually work up to 150 minutes per week. After 4 to 6 months, you should be able to increase to 300 minutes weekly.
- Drink plenty of water while exercising to stay hydrated.
- Try to be able to walk and talk at the same time comfortably (as recommended by the American Heart Association).
- Warm up and cool down to help prevent sore muscles and injuries.
For the first three weeks after surgery:
Walk! Take things slow. Start at the hospital if the doctor gives you permission. Once back home, you can walk outside when weather permits or use a treadmill, stationary bike, or portable peddle device inside.
Walk approximately 20 to 30 minutes daily, which can be done in increments. You can walk for 10 to 15 minutes in the morning and another 10 to 15 minutes in the evening, or you can do three 10-minute walks throughout the day.
Gradually increase the length of time and distance by 10 percent every couple days. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Park farther from the store. Walk up hills or elevate the treadmill incline. You can start to carry 1- to 5-pound hand weights, but always start with the lowest amount and gradually increase the amount of weight. Swing your arms while walking. Use resistance bands, but always protect your abdomen.
After six weeks post-surgery:
You can start to incorporate more vigorous exercises into your regimen. Join an exercise or walking group. Join a gym; there are many affordable options and most have extended hours to fit your schedule. By now your incisions should be closed and healed, so you can gently swim or water walk. This will help to increase endurance, flexibility, overall strength, and improve circulation and balance.
You can also purchase exercise videos or enroll in Tai Chi, Zumba, or Square Dance classes. There are exercise classes online and exercise apps for your mobile devices that help to track your progress and give you some ideas for at-home exercises.
Working out and getting exercise will improve your overall physical fitness, help you to burn calories more efficiently, make you feel and look good, and help you sleep better. Mentally, it gives you an incredible boost and helps to provide a sense of well-being and accomplishment. Mix up your exercise routines so you do not become bored and stop moving.
The key is finding a type of exercise that you like to do and will stick with. Physical activity is important in long-term weight management. Everyone will start at different levels of fitness and mobility, but the most important part is that this is your journey and you must figure out a plan that works for you. Have fun and live your best life now!