Exercising, in some form or fashion, will occur from day of surgery onward in your bariatric journey. As we’ve discussed before, nursing staff at the hospital will encourage you to walk as much as possible after your procedure. There is an important reason for this – not only for your recovery, but also to jumpstart your exercise program and weight loss.
Early on in your recovery, you won’t be able to do too much exercise. Most often, this will be walking, cycling, and swimming – basically, all low-impact exercises that don’t put undue pressure on your joints. After losing some weight, and taking some pressure off the hips and knees, you may be able to perform other exercises such as running or jogging. However, be sure to speak to your bariatric surgeon — or if you have joint problems, to your orthopedic specialist, to ensure the suitability of your exercise regimen.
Cardio, while great for the heart (it’s in the name), is not the only exercise that you will need to perform after surgery. In fact, strength training, whether using weights at the gym or your own body weight, is a very important part of the long-term muscle building and weight loss process. First, with your reduction in calories often comes a loss of muscle mass. Using strength training exercises can minimize the loss of this muscle mass and keep you strong and fit. Longer-term, muscle burns more than the same amount of fat. Therefore, with your extra musculature, you will be burning more calories at rest.
As with any patient, bariatric surgery or not, it is important to exercise within the bounds of your abilities. If you start to feel any pain or discomfort or if you are out of breath during your exercise, reduce the intensity. Remember that this is a long-term program and results don’t come overnight. Further, injuries can sideline you for up to six weeks or more, making it that much more difficult to lose your weight and hit your goals. It simply isn’t worth it.
Three quick tips to ensuring proper exercise include:
- Using proper form. Anything from walking to biking to swimming, requires proper form. This improves the efficiency of your exercise program and reduces the likelihood of injury.
- Ramp up slowly. When we start a new exercise program, it is very tempting to push harder than we should. This may lead to injury and should be avoided. Slowly increase the intensity of your workouts based on your ability.
- Finally, make sure you stretch both before and after each of your exercise sessions. Stretching reduces the risk of injury and will also improve your health. This doesn’t mean a one-minute stretch – a proper stretching regimen can last anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes.
As you can see, working out is an important part of the long-term weight loss process. Exercising also releases mood improving endorphins which, in turn, can make you more motivated to lose the weight and stay on track toward your goals. Part of an effective exercise program is appropriate vitamin and mineral intake. You can learn more about vitamin and minerals on the next page.