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Fitness Tips: Life After Bariatric Surgery

Fitness Tips

Adopting an exercise routine after bariatric surgery is important for reaching your weight loss goals and maintaining that weight loss for a lifetime. However, if you have never gone to a gym or are beginning to introduce exercise into your life, it can feel very intimidating. 

Many people feel that in order for exercise to count, you need to be active for 30-60 minutes at one time.

While this is a great goal to have in mind, starting with 30 minutes can feel impossible. Especially when you struggle with physical limitations, pain from an injury or arthritis, getting out of breath quickly, and trying to find the time.

Begin Slowly

The best advice is to begin slowly. This might begin with increasing your daily activities in your home or doing yard work. For others, this might be as simple as walking to the mailbox and back or going for a walk during their 10 minute break at work. Create small goals for yourself, and build from there.

Benefits of Exercise  

Increased Energy 

Increased blood flow to your brain and body from exercise helps give you energy! Also, as you adjust to your more active lifestyle, you will notice your endurance will improve as well. This helps every day activities become easier and you’ll begin to notice that what was once challenging is now easy. 

Improved Mental Health

Being active releases hormones called endorphins. This is called the “feel good” hormone! Oftentimes, when we feel like we don’t have any energy, going on a short walk, stretching, or doing a bit of exercise can help give you that boost you’re looking for.

Exercise also helps to reduce anxiety and depression, improve sleep and memory and reduce stress. 

Increased Lean Muscle Mass

Regular exercise after bariatric surgery helps with long term weight loss. When we lose weight quickly, muscle is lost as well. Exercise helps protect your lean muscle mass which directly affects your metabolism.

Muscle helps your body burn calories. Maintaining or building muscle will help you lose weight and have a strong metabolism.

Types of Exercise

Strength or ResistanceTraining

Using resistance or therapy bands, light weights, a medicine ball, or doing body weight exercises helps to maintain and strengthen your bones and muscles.

This may help make everyday tasks easier, increase your energy, and help your body burn calories. Remember to start slow. Try starting with very light weights, and once you are able to complete 3 sets of 15 repetitions, increase your weight or resistance.


Walking, jogging, hiking, cycling using a road bike or stationary bicycle, swimming, dancing, sports, and water aerobics or attending fitness classes in person or online are all examples of cardio activities.

These activities help improve your endurance and energy by strengthening your heart and lungs.

Flexibility and Stretching

Yoga, pilates, and general stretching are wonderful low impact activities. Being active doesn’t have to mean weights and walking. Try some low impact exercises that help to strengthen your core (back and abdominal muscles) and balance. 

Timeline For Resuming Exercise After Surgery

First Month After Surgery

Begin to slowly increase walks to be about 5-15 minutes long, for 3 times each day. This can be performed outside, using a treadmill or by using a stationary bicycle for those with limited mobility. This is to prevent blood clots and not to burn calories at this time.

It's very important to listen to your body. If you are only able to leisurely walk for 1 minute, try to walk every 1-2 hours. Slowly build your endurance from here.

Months 1-3 After Surgery

Begin light weight training using 1-10 pound weights to help maintain and build lean muscle. Listen to your body, and slowly increase your weight as you build stronger muscles.

If you don’t own a weights set, use resistance bands, water bottles, or even laundry detergent jugs as weights.

If you have access to a swimming pool, water aerobics is okay at this time. Continue to do 5 to 15 minutes of activity each day and don't forget to stretch!

3 Months and Beyond

Begin to slowly increase your cardio and strengthening exercises over several months. Try to build to 30-60 minutes of exercise about 5 days per week.

Check out Central California Surgery's Pinterst account for some additional examples of exercises and workouts including seated exercises, resistance band workouts, and yoga! You can also watch a video on physical activity here.

For additional information on how weight loss surgery may benefit your life, give us a call at (209) 248-7168. 

Katie Ott, MS, RD

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