Exercising After Gastric Bypass Surgery

Pre Surgery

Gastric bypass surgery or bariatric surgery is not a quick and easy way to lose weight and it is not for everyone.  Certain factors regarding age, cardiopulmonary strength and walking ability can increase the risk factors of having this procedure done.  A serious commitment to lifestyle change is needed in order for the surgery to bring benefits as well as for it to be safe during and after operation.

This commitment to change is not an easy thing to come to and it shouldn’t be rushed.  While for some, a proven and effective surgery may seem like the obvious thing to do (if exercise and diet have not been working), the emotional and financial burden of having this surgery can be overwhelming if done prematurely.  If you have exhausted other ways to lose weight,  and have done enough soul searching that you think you are prepared for the next step, then it’s time to get some information.  Do as much research as you can about the procedures (there are 2 kinds) and find some forums on-line with people that have already had the surgery.  Talk to your friends and family, you will need their support over a long period of time and the more you can tell them about the procedure the better.  Explain that this is not only for cosmetic purpose and that it is important for health related concerns other than weight loss.  Organize a list of questions to bring to your doctor.  While some people may find this the obvious choice there are others who may frown upon the idea of using surgery to lose weight, including some doctors.  Be prepared and insist on a referral to a specialist.  Once your doctor is on board you will most likely need to do a complete physical.  Your doctor should be able to gauge whether you can begin some pre-operation exercise and dieting in order to best prepare for your surgery and limit the recovery period.

Once given the go ahead, try and find a certified trainer with some experience in pre and post bariatric surgery exercise.  If you are having this surgery done, your BMI is over 40 and so your joints, bones, tendons, ligaments, muscles and organs have endured a lot of strain for some time.  Beginning an exercise program at this stage should be a slow, gradual work in progress.

Best case scenario would be a 6 month period before your surgery date where you can begin exercising.  Every person should have a program that suits their fitness level and abilities.  For those working against injury, major joint pain, diabetes, etc., this all needs to be taken into consideration.  For those who are battling severe obesity, you just do what you can, be vocal with your trainer and please make sure that your doctor has approved you for exercise.  As a general rule there are 2 things I would focus on in the months leading to surgery:

1 – Slowly increasing your cardiovascular strength

2 – Building strength in your postural muscles

Other target areas of exercise can be practiced but this is what I would maintain as a goal; increasing those 2 things (see list below for some ideas on appropriate exercises).

Recovery time depends on the person but it is usually between 4-8 weeks.  During those weeks your doctor may give you the okay to begin walking.  But chances are you will have to stay away from lifting for at least 6 weeks.  This is a good time to focus on your nutrition and on staying happy and motivated.  Stay connected with the people you met on the on-line forums.  The great thing about this surgery is the immediate effect it has on your capacity to eat and in turn, the immediate results.  This instant gratification will help carry you through the recovery period and hopefully through the next year or so of lifestyle change.  Even still, the more support you can garner from people who are going through the same changes the better!

Post Surgery

A quick note:    The weight loss that you experience will continue without exercise but it will not be as drastic and your body’s bones, joints, tendons and organs will not regenerate to their capacity without it.  In addition, the chances that you keep the weight off in the long run and reduce other weight related disease increases drastically for those who begin exercising regularly.  The sooner you get started the better – that is, once your doctor says you’re ready!

Exercise:  The first 6 months post surgery will be reminiscent of the 6 prior to.  But now we are going to want to add a 3rd point of focus; lean muscle mass.  The amount of time that you are exercising will still be limited by your stamina and also just by the healthy, gradual increase that should be implemented in your routine.  This considered, it is important to make your workouts as efficient as possible, and building lean muscle mass is a way of doing so.  The more lean muscle mass you have the more calories you will be able to burn while you are at rest.  This sounds great but don’t forget the other important factors of your training!  Your short routines should include low impact cardio, core strengthening, light stretching and functional muscle building.  If you can’t get it all in one workout make sure to add what you missed to your next session.  I can’t stress enough how beneficial it would be to have an experienced trainer guide you for the first few months or to at least devise an evolving program for you with periodical check-ins.

I would begin with a 20-30 minute workout 3-4 times a week, switching the routine to let some muscles heal while working others.  You can gradually increase your workouts to 40-45 minutes and eventually an hour.  While you should strive for 45 – 60 minutes a day, start out slow, build your stamina and ease your way into your new behavior.  You want to learn to enjoy exercising and forcing long, intense workouts on yourself isn’t going to do it.  If you really want to exercise more after your short workout, go for a steady walk.  At this point its all cumulative and walking should count as exercise but remember that a life goal should be a minimum of 30 minutes of continuous, rigorous workout 5 times a week.  Our bodies are capable of so much more than walking, we should be able to get to the point where walking doesn’t count as part of our exercise routine.

Some example exercises for the first 6 months:

Biking, elliptical, swimming – depends on joint strength

Walking in place, while standing or while sitting – keep up a steady pace bringing your knees high for a more intense workout.

Leg lifts – front, back and to the side – feel free to lean on a wall at the beginning in order to get better lifts.

Mini squats – do a quarter squat – then stand tall

Side to sides – stand in a wide stance, shift your weight from one leg to the next – this is normally a warm up exercise but with fluid, continuous movement this can get the heart rate going.

Curl to press – standing with low weight dumbbells, do a regular bicep curl, as the weight reaches your collarbone, bring your hands outward so that they are next to your shoulders, palms facing out, now push the weights straight above your head in a regular shoulder press.

Sit downs – sit down on a chair – something firm and then get back up.  Make sure your movement is fluid keep your back straight and bend forward slightly both as you sit and as you get up.  Do your best not to use your hands.  For those with sensitive knee joints, try using a stability ball, place it in a corner and sit and stand using the bounce of the ball as momentum, this is often a good place to start.

Bird dog – start on your hands and knees, keep your head in line with your back,  draw in your abdomen and raise your right arm and left leg keeping them both in line with your back.  Hold for 10-15 seconds.  If you have trouble with this, just begin with one arm and one leg at a time. Gradually move up to 30 seconds.

The amount of repetitions and sets depends on the program and the person; these are just a sample of dozens of exercises I have used with my clients.  Without seeing you personally I can not suggest any one particular exercise, never mind a whole program.  But if you would like a better idea as to what kind of program may suit your situation feel free to contact me via e-mail.

I truly believe that most people are capable of changing their lives with exercise and nutrition but I don’t pretend to think that it is easy.  For some, this challenge is just too difficult or their particular situation calls for a more drastic approach to weight loss.  I applaud those who are strong enough to take the plunge, because gastric bypass surgery is not a quick fix and it requires the same amount of effort as those who do without it.

So for those, I say take advantage of the miracles of science if they can help make your life full of vim and vigor!

Good luck!

Joey Reid

For more information on the services provided by B-Fit Studio, please visit our website @ www.b-fitstudio.com or contact Joey at joey@b-fitstudio.com

2 Comments on “Exercising After Gastric Bypass Surgery

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