Posted on 01/29/2015 at 12:00 AM by Jon Hardersen, PA-C
There is no denying that exercise is a key component when it comes to maximizing health improvements following weight loss surgery. After all, our goal with weight loss is to get an individual as healthy as possible to minimize or eliminate some common obesity related diseases such as diabetes, sleep apnea, hypertension, heart disease, and certain types of cancer. In addition, the hope is that quality of life will improve as overall health improves.
Because our program puts an emphasis on the importance of exercise following weight loss surgery, the topic is touched on at virtually every post-operative visit. Worth noting, it is difficult to broadly promote a specific exercise plan or routine because every patient is different. For instance, some patients have physical limitations that need considered when developing an exercise plan.
Following weight loss surgery, exercise is not recommended for the first 2 weeks as time is needed for healing. At this time, the focus is on fluid intake to help prevent dehydration. It’s also at this stage where patients are generally tired and fatigued anyway while recovering from the major abdominal surgery and because of the drastic reduction in calorie intake. Patients are encouraged to walk frequently during the day primarily to minimize the chance of developing blood clots and to help expand the lungs.
After 2 weeks, patients are encouraged to increase walking gradually with an eventual goal of 30 minutes per day by the time they come in for their 6 week post-operative appointment. The increase in walking should be gradual with perhaps adding 5 more minutes onto the daily walk every week. Worth noting, the walking does not have to be continuous and can be divided up into multiple sessions.
After 6 weeks, all exercise restrictions are lifted and the recommendation is for 150 minutes of moderate intensity cardiovascular exercise per week. Examples include brisk walking, jogging, and elliptical training, biking, or swimming. Moderate intensity is defined by being able to carry on a conversation while doing the activity. The key is to find an activity that is enjoyable and one you will stick with. If patients are breathing too hard to talk, they need to reduce the intensity level.
In addition to cardio exercise, strength training is recommended a minimum of 2 days per week. Building muscle is important for many reasons. It increases the resting metabolic rate and aids in the body burning fat rather than breaking down muscle. The goal is to get rid of as much fat as possible and building muscle is a key component to help do that. The strength training is to target large muscle groups such as shoulders, arms, and legs.
It is recommended that patients transition into the strength training by doing body weight exercises only for 2 weeks. Examples of body weight exercises include squats, lunges, and push-ups. After the transition phase, patients can use dumbbells or resistance bands if desirable, again, targeting the large muscle groups. The recommendation is to do 2 sets of 8-12 repetitions.
It is not uncommon for our patients to participate in group exercise classes once they are several months out from surgery. Many have joined Farrell’s, CrossFit, Kosama, etc. These programs can be very effective and often implement both cardio and strength training.
If an individual commits to making exercise a lifelong priority following weight loss surgery, amazing health benefits are gained above and beyond weight loss.