One question you might be asking yourself after surgery is:
“when can I go back to the gym after your gastric sleeve surgery and start exercising again?”
This is a great question and, lucky for you, the answer is simple and straight-forward! You just need to get the timing right…
Chances are that you were told by your surgeon to start exercising in some capacity before your surgery to help get yourself ready, as well as try and establish the habit of exercise that you will need to have post-op.
The American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS) recommends mild exercise (including cardiovascular exercise and light resistance training) 20 min/day 3–4 days/week prior to having your surgery.
This will help improve cardiovascular fitness, reduce the risk of surgical complications, promote healing and enhance postoperative recovery.
Establishing this habit prior to surgery will make it much easier to get back into it once your surgery has been completed and you have been given the go-ahead to start exercising again by your surgeon.
How long should I wait before going to the gym after my bariatric surgery?
It is important to understand that after your surgery, you will need to be careful not to overdo it with exercising or perform any exercises that could be damaging to your incision as this will cause more harm than good.
It’s a general rule of thumb that you wait at least 1-2 weeks before starting to exercise, which in this case will be just walking.
For the first 6-8 weeks, you will want to stick to just walking to allow your body to recover and heal properly as well as help you get used to your new changing body.
Timeline for exercise after bariatric surgery
Light walking starting at 10 minutes per day and working your way up to 30 minutes per day, 5 days a week. If you find it difficult to walk for long durations at one time, you can split it up into 2-3 sessions throughout the day totaling your 30 minutes.
Once your body has adapted to walking and you have worked up to 150 minutes a week, you can start to add in some more variety. If you go to a gym you can try some different types of cardio machines like the elliptical or stationary bike.
You can also start aqua aerobics (as long as your incision is completely healed). This is especially great because you can work the whole body while also keeping the stress off your joints.
This is where you can start to add in resistance training (weights) to your weekly routine. Always start with light weights and lower volume and then progressively work your way up as your tolerance increases.
It should be noted that exercises that require more experience can be more difficult since you are still getting used to your changing body and rapid weight loss.
This can affect balance and coordination which will make it more difficult to perform these exercises. Please use caution or avoid these during this period.
You should now be able to perform both cardiovascular and strength training on a regular basis without issue. You still want to be mindful and make sure you aren’t doing anything that your body can’t handle but you can absolutely start pushing yourself harder.
After you have reached one-year post-op, you should be able to start increasing the intensity and frequency of which you workout. Also, you can start adding in core/abdominal exercises as long as your surgeon or exercise physiologist gives you the go-ahead.
This is to avoid doing any damage to the incision site and possibly causing any hernias near or at the incision.
It is important to remember that immediately after surgery, your body is going to rapidly change while also trying to heal from the procedure so you need to make sure you are not overdoing it.
Make sure that you start out very light and then you can increase the intensity over time once you have had time to heal and allow your body to adapt.
Example of Walking Progression Table:
Week 1: Monday – Friday Walk 5-10 minutes 2-3x day
Week 2: Monday – Friday Walk 10-15 minutes 2-3x day
Week 3: Monday – Sunday Walk 15 minutes 2x day
Week 4: Monday – Sunday Walk 30 minutes 1x day
The importance of exercise after surgery
Exercising after bariatric surgery will not only improve your quality of life, but it will also help you reach and/or maintain your weight loss goals quicker and more efficiently.
- Increased cardiovascular endurance
- Healthier heart
- Decrease body fat
- Increase lean body mass (muscle)
- Increased mood
- Decrease chances of disease and illness
These are just a few examples, but you can see that exercise has wonderful benefits and will absolutely help you in the long run!
Real exercise plans you can start today
Walking (starting 2 weeks after surgery):
- Walk 10-15 minutes, 2-3 times per day (30 minutes total) or you can walk the entire 30 minutes at one time
- Start with 5 days a week and work up to 150 minutes per week
- Walking is a great way to get your heart rate up, burn calories, and you can do it anywhere
Resistance training (starting 4-6 months after surgery):
- Exercising 2-3 days per week (Non-consecutive)
- Performing 8-10 total exercises per workout
- Completing 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps per exercise
- 30-60 seconds of rest between exercises
Monday, Wednesday and Friday
Pick one exercise per body part and perform 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps
Example (Instructional Videos Below):
- Bodyweight squat – 2 x 8-12
- Incline pushup – 2 x 8-12
- Cable low row – 2 x 8-12
- Standing dumbbell shoulder press – 2 x 8-12
- Standing dumbbell curl – 2 x 8-12
- Dumbbell triceps kickbacks – 2 x 8-12
- Machine seated hamstring curl – 2 x 8-12
Incline Pushup (varieties)
Standing Dumbbell Shoulder Press
Standing Dumbbell Curl
Dumbbell Triceps Kickback
Machine Seated Hamstring Curl
This is just an example but it is important to note that each body part is being worked in this workout. If you feel one of these exercises doesn’t work for you and think that you can’t do it, try your best to find a good substitute.
You could do this exact workout right now and use it for the next 12 weeks before you need to change any exercises.
Yoga is an ancient practice that uses breathing techniques, balance, and focus to achieve health and happiness. Incorporating this into your weekly routine could be a great idea.
- Join a yoga class or find a good yoga video online and do this 1-2 times per week
- You can always work up to more days
This will help with balance, flexibility, and core strength. People also find yoga to be a good way to clear their minds while also being able to engage in physical activity.
Zumba combines dancing/rhythm and movement with exercise to help elevate heart rate and improve cardiovascular fitness. Consider doing a Zumba class as part of your cardo one day and see how you like it.
- Join a Zumba class or find a good video online and do this 1-2 times per week
- You can always work up to more days
One thing that seems to really appeal to people when it comes to Zumba is that it usually involves being a part of a class where you are with other similar people who can use each other as motivation and accountability.
Make sure to always get clearance from your surgeon before starting any kind of exercise program. They are best suited to know when it will be best for you to begin.
You want to always start with lower intensity and gradually work your way up as your body adjusts to the new lifestyle and rapid weight loss. This will help you avoid injury and other issues that can come with pushing too hard too soon.
No matter what, make sure you are doing some kind of physical activity. This will play a huge role in your long term success as well as your overall health. Some people believe that it has to be all or nothing, and that is not the case.
If it takes you a little longer to get into a routine or habit of exercise, that is perfectly fine. Just make sure that you are always looking to improve and never let yourself give up!