Weight Loss Surgery (Obesity Surgery) & Exercise

Exercise is an essential part of maintaining a healthy weight long-term and should be part of a healthy post-surgery lifestyle.  After weight loss surgery it is important that you develop a regular exercise program and stick to it! Exercise is important to maintain muscle mass and strength and it is vital to increase your body’s metabolism and help burn calories.  You will not only feel much better about yourself but your chances of maintaining your target weight with increase ten fold with a successful exercise plan.

Many weight loss surgery patients are usually advised to exercise for 30 minutes a day at least.  Aerobic exercise is most effective for burning calories but weight training is equally important for maintaining muscle tone and strength.  Popular types of exercise for post weight loss surgery patients are walking, bike riding and stair climbing.   Your doctor will probably suggest some activities for you if you are stuck for exercise ideas that you enjoy.  The best thing to do is to try and vary the activities you do, that way you won’t get bored and can try out lots of different things and see what you prefer.  Walking is an excellent way of gaining aerobic exercise and it is easy to do as most of us have chances to do it everyday.   It is recommended that patients try to walk 2-3 miles a day or walk for up to 30 minutes.  This should be achievable for most, especially if you can find ways of building walking into your regular daily routine. 

Weight/resistance training is also important and you doctor many recommend that you do some exercise to strengthen your muscles 2-3 days a week.  Don’t worry if the thought of pumping iron in your local gym fills you with fear, there are many inexpensive home gym kits on the market that you could use in the comfort of your own home.  You could also simple use some cans from your food cupboard when you exercise to build up muscle. 

Your doctor will recommend that you build up your exercise slowly by starting with very low impact exercise and build up to more demanding workouts.  Take it slow and steady, if you rush into excessive exercise you may end up causing yourself and injury or endangering your health by raising your heart rate.  Be sensible, if anything hurts or you feel faint or light-headed always stop and rest. 

There is no need to feel that you have to join an all singing all dancing gym or health club to become fit.  Here are some simple exercises that don’t require any equipment or much time.  You will see results in your muscle tone if you do these exercises for at least 10 minutes a day.

  • The leg lift – sit on a chair and gently lift both legs off the floor until you feel the muscles in your thighs working.  Repeat several times. 
  • Windmills – stand up and move your arms like a windmill, making big circles.  Repeat several times.
  • Side shuffle – Take mini steps side to side with your hands on your hips, speed up once you get into a rhythm.
  • Take a walk… around your living room!
  • Use the stairs – Walk up and down the stairs, or use the first few steps to step up and down.  Set yourself a goal like 20 steps then stop. 
  • Weights workout – no need to go to the gym for this, just grab some tins from your pantry and do some arm lifts.

Work out videos and DVD’s can be fun and motivating and you could invite a friend around and workout together.

Here are a few ideas that you can do at home.  Once you start to feel fitter you will probably feel like doing more exercise, there is a wealth of choice out there and you should be able to find a class or activity to suit you.

After weight loss surgery, the key to keeping up with regular exercise is to get into a routine and find an activity that is enjoyable for you.  In most areas there is plenty of classes and activities on offer, particularly if you live in a city or large town.  Sharing exercise with others is a great way to motivate yourself, be sure to set exercise targets that are not too ambitious building up the amount of exercise gradually.  Many low impact exercise activities are great for maintaining weight such as walking and swimming so don’t feel like you have to run a marathon!  Weight loss groups can be a great place to find like-minded people who you could perhaps share a walk with or a trip to the local pool.

Another good tip is to try and build exercise into your daily routine.  If you take the bus, try getting off at a stop before your usual stop so you can walk a bit further.  Do you have to use the car for every journey?  Try walking to the local shops or post office.  Don’t use the lift, use the stairs if where you need to go only on the first or second floor.  Find opportunities for walking everyday!

You might be reading this thinking that exercise is a challenge for you.  Many larger people feel defeated by exercise programs, particularly if you have not had successful results in the past.  Being larger means bending and moving quickly is often not easy to do.  For many weight loss surgery patients a trip to the local gym or pool may fill you with dread!  It is very natural to feel self-conscious when you are at public areas like gyms or pools if you have struggled with obesity all your life.  Most of us are used to feeling exposed and different and have hid away our bodies and certainly not used public pools or gyms.  This is another step on your weight loss journey, confronting your fears about your self image.  Maintaining a regular exercise plan is just one of the many challenges to overcome post surgery, you can overcome these fears!

Remind yourself of the benefits of exercise, these are numerous:

  • Speeds up recovery from weight loss surgery
  • Helps your body to burn fat
  • Improve sleep quality
  • Enhances your body’s immune system
  • Improves your self-esteem and confidence
  • Increases your strength in your bones and joints
  • Boosts your energy levels
  • Improves digestion
  • Helps your heart and lungs to work better
  • Preserves muscle tone and strength
  • Will help you to control your blood pressure and blood sugar
  • Improves your flexibility
  • Helps prevent injury

Remember if you feel faint, experience any chest pains, dizziness or black outs while exercising then stop immediately and consult your doctor right away.  It is also important to remember to warm up and cool down.  Warming up gets your body ready for exercise by slowly increasing your heart rate and preparing your muscles for work.  Warming up exercises might include things like marching on the spot, walking slowing, swinging your arms.  Cool downs are equally important after every workout for slowing down your heart rate steadily and will help stopping your muscles from becoming stiff and painful.  If you have been running or walking fast slow down your pace to a gentle slow walk, try marching on the spot and always stretch after working out. 

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