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One major lifestyle change that will help you achieve your weight loss and wellness goals after surgery is getting into a regular exercise routine. Here are some answers to commonly asked questions regarding post-operative physical activity.

When Can I Begin Exercising After Surgery?

You will be encouraged to get out of the hospital bed as soon as you are feeling able and begin slowly walking around the unit halls to promote blood circulation, help prevent blood clots, and to expel any gas from the surgery. Once you discharge from the hospital, you can walk and go up and down stairs as tolerated. Low impact exercises like brisk walking is the preferred form of exercise initially. No heavy lifting over 25lbs for 4-6 weeks (or once your doctor clears you) and no swimming until incision sites are fully healed. Avoid doing any exercise that involves bending over or abdominal crunching until you are no longer experiencing pain from the surgery and incision sites are healed. Focus on your recovery first before beginning an exercise routine.

How Much Exercise Should I Get?

Aim for 30-45 minutes 3-4 times a week. Seem overwhelming at first? Start out slow and work your way up to that amount. Everyone has to start somewhere! Don’t have a full 30-40 minute block in your day? Exercise can be split up into smaller increments spread throughout the day and still be effective. See if you can fit in 3 ten minute bouts of exercise throughout your day. Maybe you park as far away from your work entrance as possible and take the stairs in your office instead of the elevator. Save the last 10 minutes of your lunch break to walk, do squats, calf raises, or balance exercises before going back to work. Take your dog for a 10 minute walk instead of letting it out in your back yard. Do some core exercises in between commercial breaks when watching TV in the evening. Have a 10 minute dance party with your kids after dinner! All of these things can add up to a full 30-45 minutes of exercise.

What Kind of Exercise Should I Do?

Whatever kind of exercise you actually enjoy doing is what you will stick with! Hate running? Most people do! The good news is there are tons of other ways to be physically active and burn calories, so trying different things to find what you like is key. Get out of your comfort zone and give yoga, Zumba, spinning, hiking, biking, or country line dancing a try! You never know what you might like if you never try it. Many people find typical weight lifting gyms to be intimidating because they don’t know how to use the equipment or what to do, or they fear getting hurt. If you have specific mobility limitations like back, knee, or other joint issues, then seek out a personal trainer who has knowledge on how to modify exercises to prevent injuries. Working with a personal trainer if you are new to weight lifting can be very educational and can give you the confidence you need to work out on your own after a few sessions. In addition, there are tons of free exercise Apps and videos available on YouTube.

How do I Make Exercise a Habit?

  • Plan it! People who plan time in their schedule to exercise are more likely to do it. Add exercise into your planner or calendar just like you would a meeting or doctor’s appointment. Look at the week ahead and determine what days you have the free time to fit in a workout.
  • Spice it up! Don’t get into an exercise rut by doing the same thing over and over until it gets boring and you no longer look forward to it. Variety is key when it comes to physical activity. You also burn more calories when you switch up the types of exercise you do, as your muscles get comfortable doing the same movements repeatedly.
  • Don’t over-do it in the Beginning. It’s good to feel motivated, but also know your limitations. Starting out slowly is safer and will reduce the chances of injury or feeling burnt out. If you get hurt, it will only set you back further.
  • Get Competitive. Join your employer’s steps challenge/walking groups or other types of challenges that may be offered at your gym or through fitness apps or devices. Joining a team can make exercising more enjoyable!
  • Sign up for Local Charity Walks/Runs. Having a date on a calendar that you committed to can help motivate you to exercise to prepare for the event. Get your whole family or coworkers signed up too! Having a financial incentive involved can be motivating, and knowing you are doing it to support a good cause is an added bonus!
  • Find an Exercise Buddy. Have a friend/family member who is trying to be more active too? Why not hold each other accountable by attending the gym or walking together. Even having someone text or call you to check in to see if you are working out can be a nice motivational boost. Friends/Family don’t live near you? Why not call them and chat about their day/week to make the time pass.
  • Pair Exercise with Something You Enjoy. Download an audio book, music, TV show, movie, or podcasts that interest you that make the time fly by as you are exercising.
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Carley Baulick MS, RDN, CDN
By Carley Baulick MS, RDN, CDN
Bariatric Dietitian Educator

Carley Baulick, MS, RDN, CDN is Garnet Health Medical Center’s Bariatric Dietitian Educator. She received her Bachelor’s and Master of Science Degrees in Nutrition and Dietetics from the State University of New York College at Oneonta. She is a Certified Dietitian-Nutritionist, holds an Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Certificate of Training in Adult Weight Management, and is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND). Carley is passionate about nutrition and helping others reach their health and wellness goals through individualized counseling and nutrition education. Carley can be reached at (845) 333-4730 or cbaulick@garnethealth.org.

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