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Exercise After Surgery

Your healthcare provider will want you to commit to an exercise plan before surgery. After surgery, you will be expected to exercise as part of the weight-loss process. According to the Ronald K. Evans study on Surgery for Obesity and Related Diseases, statistics show that bariatric surgery patients who perform moderate physical activity five days a week for 30 minutes had significantly more weight loss than those who didn't perform physical activity.

In addition to aiding in weight loss, exercise can:

  • Reduce the risk of dying prematurely from heart disease or other co-morbidities.
  • Reduce the risk of developing diabetes, high blood pressure, and colon cancer.
  • Reduce blood pressure in people who already have high blood pressure.
  • Build and maintain healthy bones, muscles and joints.
  • Reduce feelings of depression and anxiety.

Getting Started with Exercise


Walking is the first exercise for bariatric surgery patients, and an easy way to get moving! Walking as exercise can be started before and after surgery. In fact, nurses at St. Claire Regional will encourage you to get walking as soon as possible to aid in the healing process. An exercise regimen featuring walking can be followed year-round, outside when the weather is nice, and at the gym or indoors when the weather isn't so great.

Walking tips to help you control your weight after bariatric surgery:

  • Start by walking on a flat surface and gradually add hills or slopes as you get stronger.
  • Start with small distances and gradually increase the distance or amount of time you walk.
  • Alternate your walking routes to help keep you from getting bored with your walking program.
  • It may help to walk with a family member or friend to stay motivated.
  • Walk only where you feel safe.
  • If you can, invest in a good pair of walking shoes.
  • A great way to see activity progress is to use a pedometer.
  • You can use a variety of GPS applications, like Google Maps, to map out a route and check distances.
  • Take a bottle of water with you on longer walks. Sip water at intervals, especially if you walk outside on hot days.

Aerobic Exercise

Aerobic exercise can also be a great way to help transform your life after your bariatric surgery. Before beginning an aerobic exercise, either before or after surgery, it is very important that you check with your healthcare provider.

  • The best form of aerobic exercise is one that you will enjoy. It is difficult to stick with an exercise program if you dread it!
  • A variety of aerobic activities can keep you from becoming bored with your exercise program. Try doing different activities on different days.
  • Swimming and water aerobics are good forms of exercise, especially if you have joint problems or joint pain.
  • If you want to take an aerobic class, always start with a low-impact class geared for beginners. Examples include swimming, seated exercise, biking (elliptical and recumbent), rowing and Zumba Gold.
  • Research has shown that increasing lifestyle activities can have the same effect on health and weight loss as a structured exercise program.

It's easy to work more exercise into your everyday life. Small choices made to benefit your health can add up quickly. Some examples include:

  • Taking the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Parking at the far end of the parking lot and walking to the office or store.
  • Mowing the lawn and raking leaves.
  • Getting up from your desk to deliver a message instead of using email.
  • Walking to do errands instead of driving.

Strength Training

Strength training may include the use of weight machines, "free" weights (hand-held weights) and resistance bands. Strength training is not recommended for the first 3 to 4 weeks after your surgery. As with all exercise programs, it is very important to check with your healthcare provider before starting a strength training program. Here are some quick tips to help you in your strength training:

  • It is very important to use correct form when doing strength training. This will help to prevent injuries.
  • When starting a strength training program, it may be helpful to take a class or hire a personal trainer. The instructor or trainer will show you the correct way to use the equipment.
  • Strength training workouts should always be preceded by a 10- to 15-minute warmup (such as walking, using the treadmill or riding an exercise bike). This will raise the core body temperature and ready the joints and muscles for the workout.
  • To begin, use light weights (a set of 1 to 5 pound dumbbells is a good starting place).


By the time you reach your six-week post-op appointment, you should be able to complete 30 minutes of walking per day. After six weeks, it may be time to begin a more intensive exercise routine, including aerobic, strengthening and flexibility exercises. Patients sometimes complain about having losing motivation or sight of their goals. Try to stay motivated by practicing the following tips:

  • Begin your exercise program gradually and progress slowly over time.
  • Vary workouts to alleviate boredom.
  • Develop specific, realistic and achievable goals.
  • Anticipate obstacles—have a backup plan.
  • Keep your walking shoes or exercise clothes in the car.
  • Share your progress with others.
  • Work-out with a partner.