Every single year - thousands of Australians undergo weight-loss surgery to transform their lives. However, bariatric surgery is only the beginning of this transformation. Developing a healthier lifestyle and achieving long-term weight loss takes dedication and commitment. For anyone that is considering bariatric surgery – it should be approached as the catalyst for a new healthier life and not just a one-off solution to fix a problem.
Exercise is fundamental when it comes to sustaining a new healthy weight and improving your quality of life after a weight loss surgery. We understand though it can be difficult to even know where to begin. So, we created a comprehensive guide on the best exercises to help you recover from bariatric surgery and to outline when you can start to introduce cardio, wight-training, and flexibility work into your rehabilitation and fitness plan.
What is Bariatric Surgery?
Bariatric or weight loss surgery is implemented to help people dealing with obesity, who are struggling to lose weight through traditional techniques like diet and exercise alone. Bariatric surgery generally results in greater weight loss than conventional methods and significantly reduces obesity-related diseases such as diabetes.
The two most common weight loss surgeries in Australia are:
Why is Exercise After Bariatric Surgery Important?
As we mentioned, bariatric surgery is a highly effective weight-loss method – but it is only the beginning of a long-term weight-loss journey, and the importance of exercise in that journey cannot be overstated.
Yes - bariatric surgery initiates life-changing results - but maintaining your new body weight and improved lifestyle post-surgery requires consistent work and physical activity. A successful surgery must be complemented by exercise and a balanced diet to create long-lasting results. Moreover, the recovery process after any surgery is an intricate and delicate balance. Exercise is a fundamental piece in this post-bariatric surgery recovery puzzle, essential in getting you back to feeling like yourself again and feeling even better than you once were.
The Benefits of Exercise after Weight-loss Surgery
With the proper guidance, progression, and programming, exercise will help with the following:
- Speeding up recovery
- Further weight loss
- Long-term weight maintenance
- Preventing weight fluctuations
- Improving cardiovascular health and fitness
- Boosting muscle strength
- Improving body composition
- Improving flexibility
- Reducing the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and other cardiovascular conditions
- Enhancing mood, self-esteem, and overall mental health
How Long After Bariatric Surgery Can I Exercise?
We are always reluctant to give this type of general advice - because the timeframe to get back to exercising after bariatric surgery is different for everyone – but in most cases, we see patients back walking and performing light exercise after a few days.
The timeline to get back into different forms of exercise depends on what surgery you undergo, your fitness before the surgery, and how your body has reacted. So, we advise that you speak to your surgeon, get the guidance of a professional and always play it safe rather than overdoing it in the first few days and weeks post-surgery. Later in this article, we will provide a guideline of landmarks to hit and when to introduce certain forms of exercise.
How to Exercise After Bariatric Surgery?
Starting a post-bariatric surgery workout plan involves a careful and gradual approach. For anyone beginning a health and fitness journey - one of the key factors is making exercise and physical activity a consistent part of your routine - rather than focusing on the intensity or complexity of your workouts too soon. So, for the first few weeks post-surgery - your workouts can be as simple as a short walk daily if you can, or even just a few times a week.
You can then gradually start to implement more intensity in your workouts as your strength and stamina improve. Incorporating various exercises to suit your body (that do not cause too much stress) is vital in the early stages of recovery. It might be swimming, cycling, yoga, or light-weight training – but the aim should be to find a balance of cardio, strength, and flexibility work.
The Best Type of Exercise to Implement Post-Bariatric Surgery
Once you have made a strong recovery from your surgery and you have gotten the green light from your surgeon or healthcare provider, you can add a nice mix of exercises to your weekly routine.
We recommend starting with low-impact cardiovascular exercises such as walking, swimming, and cycling. To begin, start with walking, and then incorporating swimming or cycling (or a different low-impact alternative) into the mix can be highly beneficial once you feel ready. This aerobic training is fantastic for enhancing heart health, boosting stamina, and aiding post-surgery weight management.
Over time, you can introduce strength and resistance training into your routine. Lifting weights through a structured strength and conditioning programme will help your recovery and get you fitter and stronger than ever before.
Yoga and Stretching
Stretching and flexibility work through exercise like yoga or Pilates will help you improve flexibility post-surgery and prevent injury in your other training. As with your cardio work and strength training, take it nice and slowly. Gradually build into the stretches, and do not push yourself too far, too soon.
An Overview of Exercise Timelines
Without repeating ourselves too much, we did want to reiterate that everyone’s recovery journey post-bariatric surgery is different, and we always recommend speaking to a professional before diving into anything that might be pushing it too much.
However, below is a general guideline on introducing exercise into your routine and making real progress in your physical and mental wellbeing.
Immediately After Surgery
Take a few days to rest and allow your body to heal. When you start to feel up to it, introduce short 10–15-minute walks and increase the distance and duration once you feel up for it.
2-4 Weeks After Bariatric Surgery
In the first few weeks after the surgery, you can incorporate cardiovascular work, stretching, and light exercise. You can start to walk further and more often and introduce other shorter workouts – such as the stationary bike or swimming.
6-8 Weeks Post-Surgery
After a bit of time walking and doing light cardio work – you can start to introduce strength training into your routine. Always make sure to build slowly, follow the guidance of a professional, and do not over-exert yourself.
Only after six months (or sometimes more) have passed – do we recommend high-intensity interval training or playing competitive sports. However, once your body is ready, this training is immensely beneficial for enhancing weight loss, maintaining a healthy weight, and overall feeling mentally and physically sound.
The Mental and Emotional Benefits of Exercise After Bariatric Surgery
Putting the substantial physical benefits of exercise post-bariatric surgery aside, the mental health benefits are equally profound. Regular exercise and getting into the fresh air can significantly improve your mood, reduce anxiety, improve self-esteem, and overall, leave you feeling more optimistic.
Exercise stimulates the body’s release of endorphins (our natural mood lifters), leading to a feeling of joy and euphoria. Exercise will also help you to feel a sense of accomplishment and confidence as the new you post-surgery.
Exercises to Avoid After Bariatric Surgery
In the weeks following surgery, your body is recovering. Therefore - we do not tell anyone that there are exercises they will never be able to do, but rather we advise in the first few months that patients avoid:
- Contact sports and other competitive sports
- High-intensity workouts
- Heavy weightlifting
Over time, you can incorporate all this into your life – and enjoy the full benefits of a healthier you.
Final Tips for a Full Recovery from Bariatric Surgery
Returning to exercise post-bariatric surgery can be a daunting challenge, but it’s vital to remember that success lies in consistency rather than intensity. Listen to your body, introduce healthy habits, and remain committed to a safe, sustainable, gradual exercise routine.
Most importantly, don’t forget to enjoy your workouts! Whether it’s a stroll by the beach, a jog in the park, or a rejuvenating yoga class – you have undergone surgery to enjoy these moments, so take full advantage. Do not focus on weight loss, but more on being a healthier version of yourself.
Finally, regular check-ups and communication with your surgeon or a qualified healthcare professional are vital. It’s always good to check in and ensure that you are not doing any damage or potentially causing injury to yourself.
At Central Coast Surgery, we proudly provide comprehensive care to every patient – with pre and post-bariatric surgery rehabilitation plans and ongoing support. So, if you are considering a gastric sleeve surgery in Newcastle, gastric bypass surgery or need help getting back into exercise after surgery with us, make sure to reach out to our team.