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Gastric bypass surgery, also known as bariatric surgery, is usually a last-ditch option for patients living with obesity and accompanying comorbidities like diabetes. This is because the surgery, which has become well-known as a weight loss surgery, actually makes drastic changes to the digestive tract and can lead to problems like malnutrition in the future.

Surgeons usually recommend this procedure to those with a body mass index (BMI) of over 40, or those with a BMI above 35 but with other ailments such as diabetes, heart disease or high blood pressure.

The procedure has become quite popular in India as obesity has reached epidemic proportions in the country, with approximately 5% of the country’s population now affected by the ailment. The procedure involves placing a band or sleeve around the stomach or removing a portion of the patient's stomach to reduce it to a fourth of its original size. This results in weight loss, along with reducing the risk of other illnesses that are associated with obesity.

While the procedure enables the patient to experience a significant short-term weight loss, it also reduces the risk of other serious conditions by about 70% in the first two years after the surgery. However, research has shown that after five years, almost half the patients who undergo bariatric surgery end up experiencing significant weight gain.

Weight-loss surgery, therefore, isn’t enough to ensure a healthy weight for life. It is also important to maintain a healthy lifestyle after undergoing the procedure. This includes diet, as well as including physical activity in their daily schedule.

  1. Exercise after bariatric surgery
  2. Benefits of exercise after bariatric surgery
  3. Types of exercises after bariatric surgery
  4. How soon can one exercise after bariatric surgery?
  5. Takeaways

There may be patients who never pursued any kind of physical activity before undergoing a gastric bypass surgery for weight loss, but does that mean they can’t take up regular exercise afterwards.

While it may seem like a difficult task to incorporate physical activity in your schedule after undergoing surgery, it isn’t impossible. Knowing your body’s limitations and working around them is the best way to approach exercising after undergoing such a procedure.

It is important to understand your body before beginning a physical activity and develop your own routine to not only make a habit of it but also make exercising enjoyable. Going for healthier food choices to accompany your fitness routine, spending less time sitting down and regularly moving will allow you to settle into a regular routine.

Starting slowly after undergoing a surgical procedure is important as it allows your body to adjust to a new physical routine it hasn’t kept before. Taking frequent breaks if you feel out of breath and performing short bursts of activity instead of exercises that take up more time, allows your body to get used to the new movements as well.

Joining a gym immediately after undergoing surgery isn’t the best idea, though, as your body must become accustomed to light training drills before performing more intense exercises. Regular walks for short periods, climbing stairs, performing household chores as well as light aerobic activities indoors are a great way to start.

Going under the knife to lose a significant amount of weight is a brave decision, but it must be coupled with a post-surgery exercise regimen, along with a thoroughly calculated diet to become healthier. 

Various studies suggest that those who follow an exercise regimen after undergoing bariatric surgery can see their BMI levels drop significantly lower than those who do not. Exercising has several benefits which include:

  • Maintaining a healthy body weight
  • Exercising regularly boosts your metabolism
  • Increases muscle growth and strength
  • Improves joint stability and bone health
  • Increases elasticity of the skin
  • Improves sleep
  • Reduces risk of diseases such as heart conditions and certain types of cancer
  • Improves overall mental health and reduces anxiety and stress

Patients who are scheduled to undergo bariatric surgery are usually recommended to begin a weight-loss routine even before their surgery, as it allows the patients to better prepare themselves for life after surgery. It increases the patient’s level of fitness which ensures fewer complications after undergoing the procedure.

Weight loss remains the primary goal for anyone undergoing bariatric surgery, and the objective continues even after the procedure. Based on your physical health after surgery, your bariatric surgeon will recommend the best recovery and fitness plan for you. 

The three main ways of maintaining optimum weight through exercise after surgery are:

  • Cardio exercises: Simple cardiovascular workouts and movements increase your heart rate and build stamina. Your bariatric surgeon will advise you to perform 10 minutes of exercise each day and build up your stamina and energy levels gradually from there. You can begin with simple walking, and gradually increase your endurance levels to be able to walk briskly without running out of breath. Climbing stairs, doing housework like cleaning and mowing lawns, etc., can also be included as you gain more stamina. As you become more accustomed to physical activity, you can take up more demanding activities such as skipping rope, playing a sport like badminton or cycling.
    Some examples of cardio exercises are:
    • Walking/brisk walking
    • Skipping rope
    • Cycling
    • Badminton
    • Dancing
    • Swimming
    • Mowing the lawn
    • Housework
  • Strength training: Contrary to popular belief, strength training exercises are not only performed to build muscles or become ripped. They are also extremely productive towards weight loss. You will be asked to stay away from lifting weights or performing strenuous activities for the first three or four weeks, but add weight training to your schedule after that. Weight training allows you to build strength in the muscles and boosts your metabolism for prolonged periods of time. It also tones the areas of the body that have excess fat storage.
    Some examples of strength training exercises are:
    • Squats
    • Lunges
    • Core exercises like planks, crunches
    • Lifting weights
  • Flexibility exercises: Incorporating flexibility exercises in your daily routine is an essential part of physical activity, as it prevents you from injuring yourself. Performing stretching exercises is a great way to inject flexibility in the body. Stretching requires you to stretch your body’s muscles and hold the position for a few seconds before returning to rest.

Tip: When you begin any kind of physical activity, always warm-up before exercise and cool down afterwards with some static stretching exercises, and start by lifting lighter weights. If you feel any pain in a muscle group, stop immediately.

Resuming or beginning physical activity after undergoing surgery of any kind can be daunting. However, it is important to engage in some kind of physical activity as it improves blood circulation, prevents the clotting of blood due to laying or sitting down all day and allows your body to heal faster.

However, you must be mindful of the fact that your body has undergone a surgical procedure, and it is helpful to ease into any kind of physical activity. In the first week after returning from the hospital, you can start by walking short distances inside the house several times a day. You can resume your usual physical activities—gradually—within two to four weeks in the case of laparoscopic surgery, but it can take a bit longer if the surgery has been an open one.

Start slowly and then gradually build up towards walking for longer durations. Lifting weights or other strenuous forms of exercise, however, must be avoided for at least for the next three or four weeks.

Bariatric surgery can be a major event in a patient’s life, as it can help them achieve the kind of weight loss the patient may have not been able to get on their own. However, undergoing the surgery is only half the work done, as according to doctors and specialists, it is equally important to follow a strict diet and accompany it with regular exercise to maintain or lose even more weight in order to lead a healthy life thereafter.

An adult is recommended to perform at least 150 minutes of light to moderate exercise every week, which can be achievable after building up your stamina and fitness levels gradually. A regular dose of light exercise, followed by gradually increasing your physical workload can work wonders towards achieving that perfect body weight, along with the desired level of fitness.

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