Even if you are preparing for bariatric surgery, you can start exercising (so long as you are cleared by your doctor) and lose a surprising number of pounds even before your gastric bypass, sleeve gastrectomy or bariatric revision surgery.
In addition, the better cardiovascular condition you are in before surgery, the fewer complications you’ll face during and after surgery.
Not sure where to start? Here are instructions I offer to my own weight loss surgery patients here in Freehold.
Bariatric Preoperative Stage
Patients who start an exercise strategy before surgery have an easier time adjusting to exercising after surgery, according to the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS).
But, admittedly, exercise is challenging for people who carry a lot of extra weight. For this reason, starting slow is imperative. If you are morbidly obese, talk with your bariatric surgeon about fitness guidelines for your current health situation.
Generally speaking, these are reasonable goals to target:
- Focus on cardiovascular exercise, even if it’s just a walk around the neighborhood for 10 to 30 minutes, depending on your health and doctor’s recommendation.
- Start walking for 10 minutes, twice a day and add 5 minutes each day, up to 30 minutes per day.
- Realize that empowerment that fitness gives you over your body and your overall health.
- Appreciate how good you feel after exercising — even for 10 minutes!
Weight Loss Surgery Postoperative Stage
For the first two weeks after surgery, focus on flexibility exercises, deep breathing and getting back into performing normal daily activities.
- At your first post-op visit with your surgeon, he or she will carefully go over your customized exercise plan based upon your health, age and the procedure you had.
- With your doctor’s approval, three weeks after your operation, begin to gradually incorporate low-intensity aerobic exercise (walking or swimming are my preferred choices at this stage).
- If you feel prolonged pain or discomfort, you are doing too much too soon.
- During the first six weeks after surgery, do not lift more than 15 pounds.
One Month and Beyond
Now your goal is to increase range of motion so you can easily take off your shoes and pick things up off the ground and move around more.
- Strength-training (light weights) exercises are rebuilding muscle.
- Work toward 30 minutes of continuous exercise five days per week.
- Avoid abdominal exercises for the first eight to 12 weeks (allow the incision to heal). This also helps to alleviate abdominal hernias near or around the incision.
- Change-up your workouts so your body is constantly challenged (walk around the park today, lift weights at the gym tomorrow and use the elliptical machine)
- Introduce a wider variety of bariatric fitness options: biking, kickboxing, dancing, aerobics, pilates or yoga. Sometimes, it helps to be a part of a fitness group so as to maintain a consistent schedule and get encouraging support from others doing the same thing.
A year after weight loss surgery, you should be able to perform 45 minutes to an hour of exercise five times a week.
Exercise is Insurance Against Future Weight Gain
A lifelong exercise program is critical to a weight loss surgery patient’s long-term success. If a physically active lifestyle has not been adopted, weight gain will likely result. (Sadly, I have seen this firsthand on more than one occasion).
Exercise is insurance for long-term weight loss. If you have a slip, an extra 5 to 10 minutes spent working out will ensure that your metabolism stays elevated and this extra effort will burn more calories.
Working out will not, however, save you if you overeat regularly — bariatric surgery or not. By sticking close to your daily protein and calorie requirements most days, drinking plenty of water and focusing on fitness, you’ll look great, feel even better and be the healthiest person you can be.
And that’s worth just 30 minutes out of your day, isn’t it?
About Dr. Seun Sowemimo, MD, FACS
Dr. Seun is a top NJ bariatric surgeon and the medical director at Prime Surgicare, with offices in Freehold serving Monmouth and Ocean counties. He is board-certified, Columbia and Yale University fellowship-trained in advanced laparoscopic, bariatric and general surgery.
To learn more, visit his YouTube channel or call Prime Surgicare at (732)-982-2002.