Exercise after weight loss surgery is crucial for building muscle, which can help boost metabolism. While cutting calories without exercise can burn fat, it can take longer to lose weight, and also affect your body’s muscle mass, slowing the weight loss process even more. So, while weight loss surgery, by design, is meant to limit the amount of food you eat, if you rely solely on your new diet to maintain an “ideal” weight, the results will temporary at best. Ultimately, the biggest friend to metabolizing fat is activity, not calorie restriction.
Of course, while exercise after weight loss surgery and building muscle are crucial to your post-operative lifestyle, it’s also crucial that you start slowly, and consult your doctor about what activities are best.
Slow and Steady Wins the Race
Starting slowly applies to anyone who is new to exercise, overweight or not. Getting 30 minutes of moderate activity most days of the week should be your ultimate goal. But the best way to make exercise part of your regular lifestyle is to ease into it – when it comes to starting a new fitness regimen, slow and steady wins the race. Otherwise, you’re likely to either hurt yourself, or to become discouraged and quit.
Walking is the logical way to begin an exercise program after bariatric surgery, especially for the first weeks. Since you will still be obese for some time, walking also may be as much as you can expect to do until some of the extra weight comes off. Initially, aerobic exercise (measured in time, not distance) can speed your metabolism and burn fat — and for an obese person, a moderately paced walk may be strenuous enough to become aerobic. Start by taking short walks that grow longer each week. For example, the first week after surgery, take a daily five minute walk that becomes ten minutes the next week. In time, as the effects of surgery cause you to lose more and more weight, you can work up to 30- to 60-minutes of walking, or even move up to a jog.
Of course, you don’t need to limit your aerobic exercise regimen after weight loss surgery to walking and jogging. Swimming, recumbent biking or even indoor games, like the Wii Fit, can provide similar benefits. You may even want to change activities every few weeks to avoid getting bored. Just remember to start slowly and ease into each exercise to avoid injury.
It’s Time to Pump You Up
In addition to aerobic activity, which is good for your heart, you should add some weights into your workout routine to preserve muscle and boost your metabolism. Whether you use free weights, weight machines or resistance bands, you can select the areas you feel deserve the most attention, and start to carve out the body you have always dreamed of.
Of course, just like with the rest of your fitness plan, you’ll want to start with very easy moves and low weights. The last thing you want to do is pull a muscle and be out of commission for several weeks. Also, make sure you warm up before any exercise involving weights. A quick 10-20 minutes on the treadmill, recumbent bike or elliptical trainer at a moderate pace will get your blood pumping and prepare your body to do some lifting.
Women often worry about “bulking up” if they add weights to their workout routine, but that’s easy to avoid. Doing higher repetitions at a low weight will help you develop lean, toned muscles, while fewer reps at higher rates can help build muscle size. Unless you start to lift weights for at least an hour a day and continue to increase the level of difficulty, it’s doubtful that you’re going to end up looking like a bodybuilder. But, adding 20-30 minutes of basic weight training three days a week can ensure that you maintain muscle mass while you’re losing weight, and help you maintain your new, toned physique once you hit your goal.
Finally, many people find they lose their motivation when they take on a new exercise regimen by themselves. When it comes to exercise motivation, almost everyone fares better to have at least one partner, especially a person fresh from weight loss surgery. By finding a friend – or making a friend – who can help you keep your exercise routine on track, you’ll have a greater chance of long-term success!
If you have had weight loss surgery in Dallas or the surrounding Metroplex with Dr. David Provost, be sure to join in our twice-monthly support group meetings. Participants gather at 5:45pm to take a one-hour walk around the neighborhood before each meeting, and then circle up from 7:00pm-8:00pm to learn strategies for staying on track to success. For more information, call 940-323-3450.