Low Impact Exercise Options After Bariatric Surgery

By Derek

You are already taking steps towards improving your health. You try to eat right and follow your doctor’s recommendations. Did you realize, though, that regular exercise is vital to weight loss, weight maintenance, and continued good health?

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), adults require two hours and 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise each week in order to remain healthy. That may sound like a lot, but consider: 150 minutes is about the length of your average movie. Also, you can break up this exercise into manageable chunks, as little as 10 minutes at a time. Could you handed ten minutes of exercise twice a day? Yes, you can!

If you are recovering from a bariatric procedure, you may be looking for low impact exercises to strengthen your body as it heals. Consider the following suggestions, and discuss them with your doctor.


Walking is among the best low impact exercises. You don’t need any fancy equipment or a gym membership; you can walk indoors or down your street. Start out at a comfortable pace, and walk for as long as you are able. Make a record of how far you walked and for how long. Each week, try to increase either the length or the speed of your walk. As you grow stronger, you may add resistance to your walking by climbing stairs, or using an elliptical or stair climber machine at the gym.


Swimming is a low impact exercise that utilizes every muscle in your body. Since the water supports your body, you will experience less strain on your joints. Whether you breast stroke, butterfly stroke, or just doggy paddle, swimming is a fun way to get in some exercise, too!

Stationary Bicycling

An upright stationary bike allows you to strengthen the muscles of your legs and abdomen. Many people find that they can endure longer distances – and therefore burn more calories – on a bike than on foot. Some doctors recommend using an upright bike as opposed to a stationary bike that requires you to lean forward. This reduces stress on the shoulders and abdomen.


Do you like to dance? Not only is dancing enjoyable, but it is an excellent form of exercise as well. Many forms of aerobic exercise – exercise that gets your heart pumping – include dance moves. Zumba is one such example. What if you don’t know how to dance? Feel free to take a class of your choice. Square dancing, line dancing, ballroom dancing, club dancing – the choice is yours. If you don’t desire to go dancing in public, turn on some music at home. Even if you are just dancing around your kitchen, you are benefiting from the increased muscle movement and feel-good chemicals released in the brain.

Muscle Strengthening Exercises

The CDC recommends focusing on muscle-strengthening exercises at least two days a week. This might include:

Bicep curls. Start with a small weight, perhaps two pounds. Grasp the weight in your hand, palm up. Slowly bend your arm at the elbow, curling your hand toward your shoulder. Repeat as many times as you can comfortably do, then switch to the other arm.

Leg lifts. Place an exercise mat on the floor, and lay on your side. Keeping both legs straight, slowly raise your top leg as high as you comfortably can. Hold for a few seconds, then slowly lower your leg. Do as many reps as possible, then switch to the other side. Once you are comfortable with this exercise, you can use a tension band to further strengthen your leg muscles.

If you are not able to lay on the floor, you can do a version of this exercise from a sitting position. Sitting upright, grasp the sides of your chair and extend your legs until they are straight. Lift one or both legs as high as you can, keeping them straight. Repeat.

If your doctor approves, you can eventually turn up the intensity of these exercises by incorporating gym equipment designed to replicate the movements you’ve already been practicing. Look for equipment labeled “Bicep Curl,” “Leg Press,” and “Leg Lift.”

Your Exercise Program

Starting a new exercise regimen can be intimidating. It does not have to be, however. Consider the following schedule of activities that includes all of the 150 minutes of exercise that your body needs. Start out slow. Even if you feel tired, put forth the effort to get moving. Feel free to change and adapt this sample program to your own needs, and increase the length or intensity as time goes on. Finally, always discuss new exercise plans with your doctor.

Sunday: Take a brisk 10 minute walk around your neighborhood.

Monday: Visit the pool and swim laps for 20 minutes

Tuesday: Spend 10 minutes strengthening your arms with the bicep curl, and 10 minutes on the leg lift.

Wednesday: Ride the stationary bike for 30 minutes.

Thursday: Walk for 10 minutes, use the stair climber for 10 minutes, and walk for an additional 10 minutes

Friday: Take a 30 minute dance class at the local community center.

Saturday: Take a 15 minute walk in the morning. In the afternoon, spend five minutes on the stair climber, five minutes doing bicep curls, and five minutes doing leg lifts.

Regular exercise is key to maintaining your hard-won weight loss. It burns calories, and releases chemicals in the brain that can improve mood. Exercise also reduces stress, strengthens your bones and immune system, and leads to increased energy levels. As time goes by, you will be glad that you put forth the effort to make moderate exercise a part of your daily routine.


“Physical Activity and Exercise Strategies for Bariatric Surgery Patients,” The University of Chicago Hospitals Center for the Surgical Treatment of Obesity.


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