by Julia Karlstad, MEd, CSCS
If you’re considering weight-loss surgery or have already had weight-loss surgery, your commitment to adopting a physically active lifestyle along with sustaining healthy eating habits are critical to your long-term success.
Having worked with hundreds of weight-loss surgery clientele, I have seen some phenomenal success stories and I can say without hesitation that the successful weight-loss surgery patient has incorporated regular exercise into their daily lives. The important thing for you to recognize is how to exercise in order to compliment your weight-loss efforts and in turn sustain your fitness regimen injury free!
Excess body weight often restricts your ability to be physically active and it is important for you to understand how to work around these mobility limitations. The excess body weight as a whole is the biggest obstacle when determining an appropriate exercise program. Weight-loss will always be your number one objective initially since decreasing weight allows more mobility and puts less stress on your joints. Not to mention, the number one reason you had weight-loss surgery was to lose weight and increase your health, thus your exercise program should complement the effects of the surgery.
If you are a person with obesity or a fitness professional working with a client with obesity (body mass index greater than 30) follow these physical activity recommendations:
The best thing a weight-loss surgery candidate can do to prepare themselves for both before and after surgery is to increase their level of fitness. The better cardiovascular condition before surgery, the fewer complications they’ll experience during and after surgery. The following guidelines should prove helpful:
If there are any postoperative complications, that is physical problems following the weight-loss surgery, schedule an appointment with your bariatric surgeon and follow the surgeon’s recommendations for an exercise program. For the first four weeks after surgery, focus on flexibility exercises, deep breathing and getting back into performing normal daily activities.
Gradually incorporate low-intensity aerobic exercise (i.e. walking, biking or swimming). If the surgery was laparoscopic, it is generally safe to start exercising up to your pain threshold two weeks after surgery, but it is best to consult with your surgeon before starting any exercise program. If the surgery was “open,” it may take a few more weeks to recover. Here are some tips for those that underwent “open” procedures:
The bariatric surgeon may increase the caloric intake to 1,200-1,400 calories six to 12 months after surgery, particularly if their patient has lost a large percentage of their excess weight. Follow the surgeon’s and/or dietitian’s recommendations on food intake. Regularly monitor and assess your exercise program to ensure continued compliance and continued weight-loss which ultimately leads to weight maintenance.
A lifelong exercise program is critical to a weight-loss surgery patient’s long-term success. Bariatric surgery is a valuable tool for rapid weight loss; however, in two to three years, if a physically active lifestyle has not been adopted, the weight returns.
About the Author:
Julia Karlstad, MEd, CSCS, is the president of JKFITNESS, LLC. Julia has worked in the fitness industry and specifically the medical wellness community for several years. Previous to owning her own business, Julia personally developed and directed an exercise physiology program that consisted of two bariatric hospitals and three medically supervised weight-loss clinics.