Exercising During Your Bariatric Journey
The word exercise can invoke a host of emotions, from intimidation and dread to anticipation and excitement. Ultimately exercise, when done correctly and consistently, will make you feel healthy and invigorated. As a patient at Saint Luke’s Center for Surgical Weight Loss, you will work with an exercise physiologist before and after surgery to help you incorporate exercise into your life for the long term and build a healthier you.
“I don’t want anyone to feel like this is The Biggest Loser type of thing,” said Renee Horinek, a Saint Luke’s clinical exercise physiologist. “I won’t ever ask anyone to exercise multiple hours a day or do anything they aren’t ready or able to do. The only goal we set for patients is to achieve a minimum of 150 minutes a week of structured, intentional exercise prior to surgery. That starts with a minimum of an hour a week the first month in the program and increases by 30 to 60 minutes every month after. Long-term, I tell them to plan on closer to four hours a week.”
Renee has found that there are three main reasons people don’t exercise. The first is they don’t have enough time. Sometimes it really is a time constraint. Between work, family, and personal responsibilities, it can be difficult to see where exercise fits, but we make time for all kinds of non-obligatory activities. The key is finding a way to elevate exercise to be one of your top priorities, and that may mean redefining expectations around what exercise looks like at first. The second reason is pain and discomfort during exercise, which could be due to a number of reasons. Starting with short durations of low-impact exercise is key to building up the strength and tolerance for longer forms of exercise. You don’t have to run the race on day one, it’s about mapping out the course and setting the foundation for the race. The third reason is motivation. Everyone deals with this one. There are many possibilities for why people are not motivated to exercise. By starting with a minimum of an hour a week, success is more likely. Feeling successful early on is incredibly important when trying to start a new habit, as is how often we do the habit. It’s much better to complete 10 minutes of exercise every day than only complete an hour of exercise a couple of times a month.
“Exercise, particularly strength training, is your key to keeping the weight off for the long term,” Renee said. “If you don’t do this or you think ‘I’m going to wait until I have all my excess weight off before I start exercising,’ then you will have lost muscle and strength, and it will be ten times harder to get started than if you had started prior to that.”
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, there is a difference between exercise and physical activity. Exercise is planned, intentional, and repeated over an extended length of time. Physical activity is any movement that uses muscles to perform typical daily living, work, or leisure duties. Both are healthy for your body.
In our program, we want you to start exercising regularly beginning three to six months before surgery. You will do 60 minutes per week for the first month, 100 minutes per week for the second, and 150 minutes per week for the third, after which we can set a variety of goals. You should aim to exercise four to six days per week with a day of rest in between. Strength training is the most important exercise for building muscle mass and bone density. It doesn’t have to be heavy weight, just consistent.
Exercise after surgery begins in the hospital. We’ll have you do short-duration low-intensity activities for the first two weeks, such as walking around the block or lightly cycling on a stationary bike. In the weeks and months after you get home, you will gradually increase your exercise duration and intensity. You will meet with your exercise physiologist during your post-op visits to follow up on your progress. Our goal is to build on the foundation and habits you set and make exercising a permanent fixture in your life.
“My favorite part is seeing patients get to a point where they can see the benefits of movement,” Renee said. “They have taken it upon themselves to make exercise a priority and are able to do things they weren’t able to do prior to surgery. It could be going on vacation, riding a roller coaster, or simply not standing or sitting on the sidelines watching their family do things.”
Losing weight for good can be life changing and is one of the most important actions you can take for lifelong health. Attend a free information seminar online today to learn more about bariatric surgery and how to start on the journey to a healthier you.