Exercise & Fitness

Exercise is a key element to successful weight loss and maintenance, even after weight loss surgery.  It is not uncommon for individuals to believe that exercise is unnecessary, because the surgery usually causes weight loss regardless of activity.  However, it is extremely necessary in the weight loss surgery patient because along with the rapid weight loss comes the loss of lean body mass, such as muscle.  In order to prevent great muscle loss, it is very important to be physically active.

You may experience fatigue for several weeks after surgery, but your stamina and energy will gradually improve.  Minimal activity will begin in the hospital to prevent pneumonia, blood clots and constipation.  Once you are discharged from the hospital, you will progressively be able to increase your daily amount of exercise.  As weight loss increases, activity will become easier.  Make sure to clear any weight training or vigorous activity with your physician first.

The public health recommendation for physical activity is that “sedentary adults should accumulate at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity* physical activity over the course of most, preferably all, days of the week25.”  Fortunately, those 30 minutes a day do not need to be completed all in one session but can be accumulated throughout the day.  For example, a 10-minute walk to the bus stop, a 10-minute walk to lunch, and a 10-minute walk with a friend or family member after dinner meet the recommendation.

Another way to incorporate more physical activity into your daily routine is to take normally sedentary activities and add activity to them.  For example, walk around while talking on a cordless or cellular phone instead of sitting.  Park your car further from the grocery store to get in a few extra steps**.  March in place or ride a stationary bike during TV commercials.


Don’t forget that you need to start exercising very slowly- go at your own pace.  If you do not already have comfortable walking shoes and attire, purchase some.  Do not forget to stay hydrated!  Carry a water bottle with you and sip on water while you are exercising.  Incorporating exercise into your daily routine means you will probably be drinking more than the recommended 64 oz per day.

Why Get Fit? Our bodies are designed to be physically active. Regular exercise will not only assist with long-term weight-loss, but will get and keep your heart and body healthy. Physical activity can alleviate depression and stress, help you sleep, and boost self-esteem.

Exercise is extremely beneficial following weight-loss surgery. For the first eight weeks following surgery, no strenuous exercise should be done, and you should not lift anything heavier than 10 pounds. Walking should be done immediately following surgery and is beneficial to help decrease your risk of blood clots.

Building Muscle. Muscle burns more calories than fat. The good news is that once you start losing weight, exercise becomes easier. By building muscle, you are ahead of the game, because muscle burns more calories than fat, even when you are not exercising! After your workout, muscles still require more calories.

Walking is one of the easiest ways that you can exercise. It is inexpensive; you can walk anywhere, anytime. All that is required is comfortable clothing, a good pair of walking shoes, steady, even ground, and a bit of motivation. Walking is easy on your joints and will improve overall fitness. There are many benefits to walking. Walking will:

• Give you more energy

• Assist you in sleeping better

• Decrease stress

• Tone your muscles

• Increase the number of calories that your body uses

• Lower your blood pressure

• Improve mood and increase a positive outlook on life

• Make you feel great!

For these reasons and more, we promote and encourage you to incorporate an exercise program into your life. It is a good idea to start slowly and build up to a complete program. Begin with walking for a mile or so and build up to 3-4 miles per hour. As you become proficient with walking, and after eight weeks from surgery, you may incorporate another activity into your routine to further increase your metabolism and improve your health.

A Good Pair Of Shoes. A good pair of shoes is essential for exercising. If a shoe is not comfortable, you will not enjoy your walk. Here are just a few suggestions when shopping for the perfect shoe.

Sports shoes are all over the market. Go to a store where the staff has a good knowledge about shoes. Look for a flexible shoe with a low, rounded and supportive heel. Make sure that you can twist and bend the toe area. A stiff shoe will not be comfortable. Look for a shoe that is lightweight and breathable. Walkers need a more flexible shoe than runners. At some point, if you want to run, you will want to invest in a stiffer type shoe made for running. If you wear a running shoe for walking, the shoe can keep the foot from rolling properly and increase the occurrence of shin splints.

The fit is very important. Be sure that your toes and your foot have enough room in the toe of the shoe. You want almost a half-inch between the end of your toes and the end of the shoe. Make sure that the heel does not slip and that the shoe does not pinch or bind your foot.

Ideally, you should try the shoe on at the end of the day, as your foot will be slightly larger at this time of the day. Wear the type of socks that you will wear with the shoes. Make sure that you try both of the shoes on. You want a proper fit.

Starting a Program. Now that you have that perfect shoe, let’s get started planning your program. There are a few things that you will want to think about before you get started. It is important that you design your program to fit your lifestyle. Arrange your program so that you will be successful. Do not make the program so rigid that you will defeat yourself. Here are a few key points that you will want to incorporate into your program:

• Choose a safe, well-lit area to exercise.

• Wear those comfortable shoes, clothes that are right for the season, and a reflector if you are walking at night.

• Use the buddy system to keep you motivated.

• Start out slow and easy.

• Work up to your goal. Slow and steady wins the race.

Stretching / Warm Up!

Stretching is a very important start to any exercise routine. Stretching will decrease stiff, sore muscles, decrease your risk of injury, and increase your muscle flexibility. Here are a few suggestions for stretching exercises that you may incorporate into your new program.

Ankle circles – hold on to the back of a chair or some type of support. Stand on one leg and lift the other foot off the ground. Make circles with your toes. Go in each direction. Do 10 circles with each foot.

Side reaches – reach one arm over your head and to the side. Keep your hips and shoulders straight. Hold for 10 seconds and relax. Repeat five times on each side. As you hold the stretch, reach a little further into the stretch.

Toe Points – hold on to the same chair or support. Lift one foot off the floor and point your toes toward the floor. Hold for five seconds and flex your foot, pointing the toes upward. Hold for five seconds. Repeat this for each foot five times.

Wall Push – lean your hands on a wall about shoulder level approximately three to four feet from the wall. Bend one knee and point it toward the wall, keeping both feet on the floor. Keep your back straight with your foot flat and your toes pointed straight ahead. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat with the other leg. Do this five times per leg.

These stretches are suggestions to get you started. You may have some of your own that you will use. Remember, if your muscles feel tight or need stretching while walking, pause and stretch as needed.

Wall Stretch – this is described in the warm up section.

Hamstring and Lower Back Stretch – stand with feet shoulder-width apart.  Put your arms out in front of you at waist level.  Slowly lean forward (keeping head up).  Slowly bend forward and reach for the ground. Bend only until you feel tension in the muscle.  Hold for 10 seconds and repeat five times, bending lower each time.

Neck Stretch – turn your head and look over your left shoulder and then the right.  Keep head up straight, hold for five seconds.  Tuck your chin into your chest and hold for five seconds.  Next, tilt head back pointing your nose upward.  Hold five seconds.  Repeat each of these until you feel your neck and shoulders relax.

Shoulder Stretch – take the left arm and cross it over your chest.  Put your right hand on your upper left arm and pull the left arm into your chest.  Be sure to keep your shoulders down.  Do not pull at the elbow.  Repeat with the other arm.  Stretch each arm five times.

Again, these are just suggestions for stretches.  You may already have stretches that work for you.  Be sure that you stretch before and after exercise to prevent injury and increase flexibility.

The First Steps

First of all, begin slowly.  Walk out the door.  Think about the direction and route that you will take.  Look around you.  Notice the trees, the birds, and the flowers.  Walk for five minutes and walk back.  Do this every day for two weeks.  If this is easy for you, add five minutes to your walks each week.  If this is too much for you, walk two minutes and then walk back.

The goal is to walk!

Do not be hard on yourself if walking to the mailbox exhausts you.  You did it!  Do it again tomorrow. As you build your endurance, add distance to the walk weekly.  Keep adding time until you reach your desired goal.  The goal will be 30 minutes per day, walking at a “talking pace.”  Do not walk so fast that you are gasping for air.

Watch your posture.  Walk tall.  Hold your head up and look forward.  Your shoulders should be down and relaxed.  Tighten your buttocks and you will begin to walk in a natural stride.

Be sure to drink plenty of water.  Take your water bottle with you and drink as needed.

The toughest part of starting a program is beginning and developing a habit.  There will be days that you just do not have the desire to exercise.  Those are the days that you will feel most rewarded if you will push yourself to step out that door. 

As your walk is ending, slow down your pace and begin to cool off.  You should be sure to stretch after you exercise, too.  These stretches should be done slowly without bouncing.  Be sure to keep your head above your heart.  These stretches should feel good, and you should hold the stretches longer than during your warm up.  Do not stretch to the point of pain.  A slow, gentle stretch is all that is needed.  Here are some stretches that you may want to try:

Your body will adjust over time to the current exercise that you are doing, so at some point, you will need to push yourself harder in order to increase your metabolism.  Following are the aerobic guidelines according to the National Institute of Health (NIH):

  • Mode of Exercise – Aerobic
  • Frequency – 3 to 5 days per week
  • Duration – 20 to 60 minutes of continuous aerobic activity


Motivation. Motivation is the key to a successful exercise program.  You will have to find out what motivates you.  It could be to lose weight, to become healthier and fit, to be able to walk in great places, or to be able to walk with your family members or friends.

Who in your life will benefit along with you when you become more fit? You will have to be the one to decide what will motivate you and keep you motivated.  Choose the things that matter to you and stay focused on those things.

Now, make a list of all the excuses that you have found for not becoming fit and start marking them off of your list!  You must make you and your overall well-being the top priority!  Now, get started!  The world awaits!


Please consult your physician before beginning any fitness program.