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The Importance of Physical Activity Following Weight Loss Surgery


By Dr. Dieter Pohl

Everybody knows how important dieting is when it comes to weight loss. But more and more research tells us that physical activity should be a big priority for those looking to increase their weight loss following weight loss surgery. Let’s explore how working out can help you achieve your weight loss goals. 

Exercise burns calories

Determining how many calories are necessary to lose weight is undoubtedly the most important starting point in a weight loss journey. But there is more to being healthy than just diet. Aerobic activities such as running, swimming, and cycling are fun ways to burn an additional few hundred calories a day. Following weight loss surgery those who engaged in physical activity saw an additional 5 pounds of weight lost compared to those who did nothing. Doing moderate cardio exercise 5 days a week, averaging 200 calories a session, will result in an additional 52,000 calories expended over those who took the sedentary route. Not surprising to see how there is a 5-pound difference!

Resistance training builds lean muscle

Cardio isn’t the only activity we recommend. Resistance training is a great way to burn extra calories in the day. This happens in a few ways. For starters, lifting weights burns calories just like any other physical activity. Secondly, resistance training causes a ‘boost’ to the metabolism in the hours following a workout session. That’s why several workout sessions spaced out every day or two are most effective, as they give the body time to recover and kickstart the metabolism throughout the week. Finally, muscle built over time will help a person burn even more calories, as increased lean muscle mass speeds up a person’s metabolism. A person with more muscle uses up more calories just sitting around. Even sleeping! Resistance training also seems to have a unique benefit in helping control blood sugar levels in people with Type 2 Diabetes. A 2007 study concluded that subjects who combined resistance training with cardio saw the greatest improvement of glycemic control.

Some examples of resistance exercises include lifting weights such as the bench press, body weight exercises like sit-ups and weighted machines that isolate a particular muscle. Incorporating different lifts focusing on different muscle groups is the best approach to building lean mass.

Aerobic activity improves heart health

A healthy heart is essential to the body performing at an optimal level. Poor heart health can result in lower metabolic rates, which can contribute to the slower breaking down of food in the body. Additionally, a weak cardiovascular system will lead to diminished mobility, causing a person to gradually adopt a more sedentary lifestyle. The heart is a muscle and the only way to build it is to use it. Those who exercised following surgery will not just receive the positive effects of a healthy heart such as a higher metabolic rate but will have a stronger heart allowing them to remain active as they age.   

Physical activity reduces stress

There’s no doubt that recovery from weight loss surgery can be stressful. As if invasive surgery isn’t already a big leap, patients must make major changes to their lifestyle afterwards to get the most benefits out of the surgery. Consider the dozens of studies that correlate physical activity with better stress management. People with high stress levels tend to sleep less and eat more, further compounding weight gain. This makes getting off the couch a no brainer. 

It’s important to realize that physical activity can take on many different forms. We understand that past injuries and illnesses can affect a person’s physical ability. With that said, there are always healthy ways to incorporate exercise into your day. A brisk walk is one of the most accessible ways to get started. You don’t need special equipment, just a space to move around! Low impact activities like swimming and using the elliptical are great for knee and hip issues. And, as always, be sure to pace yourself and pick an intensity that’s right for your level of conditioning. You can always improve over time! 

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