When it comes to exercise after weight loss surgery, the first rule of thumb is: start slow. You didn’t gain all the excess weight overnight, and you won’t lose it overnight, either. Fortunately, with bariatric surgery, you will lose more weight more quickly than you could with fad diets or sheer willpower. And, by adding exercise to the mix, not only will the pounds melt off faster, but you’ll improve your heart health and increase your overall energy.
Of course, if you have struggled with your weight most of your life, the whole concept of physical fitness may be a major turn-off. But, if you want to achieve and maintain a healthy weight, moderate exercise must become a way of life. In addition to speeding your metabolism by creating healthy muscle tone, exercise helps improve your circulation and blood sugar levels.
Some people embrace exercise joyfully, while others are hesitant to put their bodies in motion. Whether or not exercise is exciting, fulfilling or fun, it is necessary to stay healthy—no exceptions. Bariatric surgery is just a tool, and you can use that tool most skillfully when making exercise a part of your daily routine.
Small Steps to Success
Walking is one of the easiest ways to start an exercise routine. Your doctor or nurse will probably want you to get up and walk around within hours after your weight loss surgery to reduce the chance of clots and speed your recovery.
Talk with your surgeon about when you can begin a walking regimen once you’re at home. As soon as you get the green light, it’s time to get moving. The walks don’t need to be long when you’re first starting out, and there’s no need yet to “pump” your arms or speed walk. Just a short stroll is enough at first–even doing short laps around the house can help you get in the swing of things. Then, make your walk a little longer each day—either in distance or duration.
How Far, How Long?
At first, the distance and the amount of time you spend walking may not seem like “exercise” to those who haven’t been obese. While you’re beaming with pride for having made it once around the block, others are baffled at the short stretch. Don’t worry about what anyone except your doctor says. You can even ask your doctor to set your first fitness goal, since he or she knows your body best. An early milestone may simply be walking to the mailbox, walking a quarter of a mile, walking for five minutes or walking for 15 minutes.
Some patients will find that if they plan to walk for a certain length of time, they “cheat” and go at a slower than usual pace—but if they elect to walk a particular distance, then they keep a good pace. Others respond quite differently—they’ll take an hour to walk a distance they could have covered in 30 minutes—but if they set a goal to walk a for “x” number of minutes they are able to keep meeting their goals. Whichever system you use, just make sure you keep adding a little more to your fitness routine each day.
To Thine Own Self Be True
Although some post-op patients revel in creating new contours by lifting weights or running marathons, and they are exhilarated by their new freedom of movement, not everyone is enamored of exercise after weight loss surgery. You can boost your motivation and improve your chances of sticking with a fitness program by finding something that’s fun for you.
Don’t like the gym? Take a walk in the park. Knees hurt? Try a recumbent bike. Love winter weather? Skiing, snowboarding and ice skating are all great for your heart!
There are almost as many kinds of exercise as there are personalities. From yoga and Tai Chi to swimming, cycling, rock climbing, swing dancing, hula hooping, tennis, basketball, badminton or bowling, you’re sure to stumble across some form of physical activity that gets you inspired.
Finding a buddy with whom you can break a sweat will also help you stay on track. You can encourage each other on your continued success, and hold each other accountable on days you’d rather not work out. Remember, cheating only cheats you out of fitness and health.
Just like your new lifestyle involves eating smaller portions and sticking with low fat foods, you need to make physical activity a part of your daily routine for Bariatric surgery success. And remember, weight loss surgery isn’t about getting skinny, it’s about getting healthy. Ultimately your goal is not just to look better, but also to live longer.
So, when it comes to exercise after weight loss surgery, be mindful of one simple rule: Get moving!