What You Should Know About Exercise After Bariatric Surgery

If you're afraid of regaining weight after surgery, in this article we'll tell you why you should do physical activity safely. Find out!
What You Should Know About Exercise After Bariatric Surgery
Leidy Mora Molina

Reviewed and approved by the nurse Leidy Mora Molina.

Written by Cristian Minich

Last update: 29 June, 2022

After a surgical intervention to reduce weight, resuming physical activity or starting from scratch can be difficult. However, with a little patience and a lot of perseverance you’ll surprise yourself with what you can achieve. Read on to learn everything you need to know about exercise after bariatric surgery.

Bariatric surgery aims to make changes in the digestive system to help you lose weight. The gastric bypass and other similar operations are examples of this type of intervention.

They’re usually accessed by those who suffer from morbid obesity or people who haven’t found favorable results by following strict diets and doing exercise. However, both healthy eating and physical activity will be fundamental pillars.

The importance of exercise after bariatric surgery

When one suffers from morbid obesity and resorts to bariatric surgery to lose weight, it’s essential to perform regular physical activity in order to maintain the new figure. In addition, exercising favors a better recovery.

A 2021 study on the effect of physical training before and after bariatric surgery concludes that exercise after bariatric surgery improves the condition and leads to a small additional loss of weight and fat, while it can prevent bone loss.

Bariatric surgery.
Bariatric surgery is a major intervention in which the subsequent recovery time must be considered.

When can I start exercising after bariatric surgery?

The ideal way to start exercising after the intervention is to have started before it. Some specialists recommend physical preparation at least 1 month before the surgery and then to resume the activity approximately 1 month later.

It must be clear that it should be exercise without too much demand, such as gentle jogging. It will also be necessary to count on the supervision of a professional who can draw up a suitable exercise plan for each case.

However, most patients with bariatric surgery don’t have the habit of doing exercise. In these cases, the process may take a little longer. However, you should always think long-term and not get discouraged. Overcoming the barriers to get moving will allow us to achieve a better quality of life.

Tips to take into account to take up exercise again safely

After bariatric surgery, you have to adapt to a new body. Muscle mass has been lost and you’ll probably feel weaker.

The physical condition prior to the operation will be a determining factor on how long to wait before starting exercising again. But one thing that should be clear is that it’s important to always do physical activity.

Here are some tips to carry it out safely:

  • Start slowly: You may be able to lose a few extra pounds with exercise after surgery, but keep in mind that the goal shouldn’t be to lose weight, but to maintain it. The demand should be increased progressively and as you feel better.
  • Don’t compare yourself with others: The ideal exercise plan for each person may be different and is based on the characteristics and physical condition of each one, in addition to the type of surgery you have undergone.
  • Exercise regularly: It’s better to carry out activities in a moderate way, rather than doing very demanding training sessions, but not too often.
  • Be patient: Sometimes, you may feel demotivated when you don’t notice favorable changes quickly, but don’t forget that it isn’t a matter of haste, but of regularity and constancy. The changes will be noticeable in the long term.

Exercises you can do after the operation

Regular training is the best way to obtain and maintain the desired results after bariatric surgery, in addition to the acquisition of healthy habits. The better we feel, the more motivated we’ll be to do all kinds of activities.

Here are some exercises that you can do in the different stages of post-surgery recovery:

  • First stage: Depending on your physical condition, you can start a few weeks or a month after the intervention. Short routines are ideal. Short walks will help us to get moving without suffering too much fatigue. Gradually, you can try gentle jogging and activities such as going up and down stairs.
  • Second stage: You can try cardio-respiratory exercises. The walks should be longer and the pace can also be improved. Cycling or swimming are complete, fun activities that provide great health benefits.
  • Third stage: This is estimated to be around 6 months after surgery. We must emphasize the musculature. The objective is to strengthen and tone the body. It’s a good idea to go to the gym and have professional help for the elaboration of routines.
A woman exercising.
It’s important to start a training plan before surgery, so that it’ll be easier afterwards.

Benefits of exercise after bariatric surgery

To adapt to your new physique and lead a better life, exercise is a must. Here are some of the benefits of exercise after surgery:

  • It helps you to lose more weight.
  • Maintains lean muscle mass.
  • Reduces the risks of certain diseases, such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and sleep apnea.
  • Helps eliminate harmful practices, such as drinking alcohol, or smoking.
  • Acts against anxiety and stress.
  • It helps you to rest.

Good nutrition is key

Physical activity as the only method to lose weight isn’t enough on its own, unless it’s accompanied by a healthy diet. In other words, rather than a period of work to reach the ideal weight, we’re talking about a change in lifestyle.

According to a study on nutrition and physical activity before and after bariatric surgery, the rate of interventions increased from 158 000 in 2011 to 196 000 in 2015. However, this growth in invasive techniques didn’t eliminate unhealthy habits, and it means that many people went back to their original lifestyle and results were lost.

With so many body changes in such a short time, a new life begins unfailingly. It’s up to you to make it a life full of energy to enjoy activities that couldn’t be done due to excess weight.

Exercising regularly, following a proper diet, and getting good rest after bariatric surgery will allow you to stay in shape. Be patient and pay attention to the professional indications in order to achieve the proposed goals.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Bellicha A, van Baak MA, Battista F, Beaulieu K, Blundell JE, Busetto L, Carraça EV, Dicker D, Encantado J, Ermolao A, Farpour-Lambert N, Pramono A, Woodward E, Oppert JM. Effect of exercise training before and after bariatric surgery: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Obes Rev. 2021 Jul;22 Suppl 4(Suppl 4):e13296. doi: 10.1111/obr.13296. Epub 2021 Jun 3. PMID: 34080281; PMCID: PMC8365633. Disponible en: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34080281/
  • Tabesh MR, Maleklou F, Ejtehadi F, Alizadeh Z. Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Prescription of Supplements in Pre- and Post-bariatric Surgery Patients: a Practical Guideline. Obes Surg. 2019 Oct;29(10):3385-3400. doi: 10.1007/s11695-019-04112-y. Erratum in: Obes Surg. 2020 Feb;30(2):793. PMID: 31367987. Disponible en: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31367987/

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.