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Exercise to Help Your Body Reboot After Bariatric Surgery

January 25, 2021

Obesity is a complex issue. It’s not simply the result of eating too many calories and burning too few — other factors such as genetics also play a role. Still, overeating and lack of exercise are often the dominant causes of obesity worldwide. Once you have made the decision to lose weight, exercising and burning calories will be a welcome addition to your arsenal.

Along with diet and exercise, weight-loss, or bariatric, surgery may be an option if you meet certain guidelines. Ideal candidates for the surgery have a body mass index (BMI) of at least 35, are more than 100 pounds overweight or have an obesity-related health issue, such as high blood pressure, diabetes or heart disease. 

The surgery either reduces your stomach size, causing you to feel full sooner, or changes the small intestine so you absorb fewer calories. When you consider that more than 42 percent of the U.S. population was obese in 2017-2018, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is no surprise that weight-loss surgery is on the rise for those who want to reach a healthy weight. 

Myths and Misconceptions 

But if you think that once you have the surgery you will lose weight without major lifestyle changes, you couldn’t be more wrong. Bariatric surgery will help you drop pounds, but you must make lifestyle changes before and after surgery to maintain the weight loss. 

Think of the surgery as just one part of a body reboot that relies on multiple factors. Exercise will not only help keep you motivated to stay healthy, but often will keep you in check with your diet. The reason? Those who exercise know how hard they need to work to burn calories! You are less likely to eat a 1,000-calorie piece of cake when you know you need to run for 90 minutes or longer to burn off those calories. 

Benefits of Exercise 

The benefits of exercise after bariatric surgery go well beyond calories. Exercise releases endorphins, a group of hormones that make us feel happier and can give our mood a boost. 

Physical activity, which can strengthen your bones and joints, also helps prevent osteoporosis and degenerative diseases, for which obese people are already at increased risk. Exercise also helps reduce the risk of heart attacks and lowers blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Obese patients are especially vulnerable to developing breast cancer, and physical activity has been linked to reduced risk. 

Try These Exercise Tips

  • Start slowly. Many patients get excited about a new lifestyle and start with vigorous exercise on Day One. This can lead to muscle fatigue, cramps, dehydration and even kidney failure. Your body needs conditioning, and while the mantra of “no pain, no gain” is true, you want to slowly condition your body rather than overwhelm it.

  • Hydration is key. This can be a real challenge for bariatric patients, because they have smaller stomachs. So make sure you hydrate with small but frequent sips of water. Stay away from sugary drinks. 

  • Choose an activity you enjoy. You are much more likely to make exercise a habit if you don’t view the workout as a chore. Find a sport that suits your body. For example, if you have severe knee disease, biking and swimming might be good fits for you, while running probably isn’t.

Exercise can initially be intimidating and exhausting, but it’s one of the best ways to keep the weight off after surgery. Whether you enjoy an evening walk with your significant other or a bike ride alone, you are taking steps to maintain a healthy lifestyle.


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