Paul Sorace, M.S., and Adam de Jong, M.A., stress that the weight loss attained through bariatric surgery doesn’t always equal true health.
“Bariatric surgery promotes weight loss but not a healthy lifestyle. Exercise does,” de Jong said. “Although bariatric surgery does provide significant improvements in key cardiovascular risk factors, including Type-2 diabetes and hypertension, long term success is dependent upon lifestyle changes. As part of these lifestyle changes, increased physical activity is necessary to attain long-term health and also prevent weight regain.”
Sorace and de Jong outlined post-bariatric surgery physical activity recommendations in three key areas:
- Aerobic exercise should be the focus of a post-bariatric surgery program, as it burns the most calories and is the best way for a previously sedentary individual to ease into physical activity. Low-impact activities such as walking are useful and usually well tolerated, even if only for brief periods.
- Resistance trainingis a crucial partner to aerobic exercise, but limitations may be prudent during the early weeks after surgery, particularly concerning the abdominal region. But strength training may increase fat-free mass (muscle) and speed loss of fat mass in post-bariatric surgery patients.
- Flexibility exercise improves range of motion for still-obese post-surgery patients – but following precautions is important to prevent injury.
Sorace also recommends taking care to ensure proper hydration levels. “These patients are unique in that they would typically need more fluid during activity than others because of their body size and sweat rate – but they now have limited capacity to consume these fluids.” He recommends frequent small sips of water and exercising in cool temperatures to reduce fluid loss.
The American College of Sports Medicine is the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world. More than 35,000 international, national, and regional members and certified professionals are dedicated to advancing and integrating scientific research to provide educational and practical applications of exercise science and sports medicine.