Exercise plays a critical role in helping bariatric patients to achieve long term success in their goals to lose weight, live a healthy lifestyle and maintain their desired weight once achieved.

It is recommended that you work with your bariatric surgeon and a fitness professional to develop a program that addresses your unique needs including your personal preferences, ability and your goals for weight loss and a healthy active lifestyle.

When can I start exercising after bariatric surgery?

Physical activity after weight loss surgery will help you recover more quickly. It will help improve your circulation, reduce the risk of blood clots, promote wound healing and improve your bowel function. During the first week you can start walking. Initially try and take several short walks per day. You can move around the house, shower and use the stairs at home.

If you have laparoscopic surgery, you should be able to do most of your regular activities in two to four weeks. It may take up to twelve weeks if you have open surgery.

Walking is encouraged on a regular basis to increase your physical activity level. You should increase the distance and intensity as you feel able and aim to walk 10,000 steps per day. Aerobic activities such as brisk walking and biking can also be engaged soon after weight loss surgery. These will be limited generally by the degree of discomfort that these activities cause.

You may start swimming once your surgeon has determined that the wounds have healed sufficiently. Activities that are more strenuous or that involve lifting weights are generally discouraged for three weeks after surgery. This can vary so consult with your surgeon first¹.

What exercise can I do after weight loss surgery?

You will probably be given an exercise plan that starts gradually with low to moderate amounts of physical exercise, such as 10 minutes a day, before the amount is gradually increased. The exercise should be intense enough to leave you feeling out of breath and getting your heart beating faster.

When you feel ready, you should look to include a variety of exercises in your program that increase your endurance, flexibility and strength. Try to combine aerobic exercises, to reduce your body fat, with weight resistance exercises that will build and strengthen your muscles.

The best types of activities to choose from include low impact exercises such as swimming, cycling and walking. Yoga, dancing, jogging, aerobics classes and light weights are also popular after bariatric surgery.

How much exercise should I do?

It is recommended that adults should aim to be active daily. Over a week, activity should add up to at least 150 minutes (2½ hours) of moderate intensity activity in bouts of 10 minutes or more. One way to approach this is to do 30 minutes on at least 5 days a week. Alternatively, comparable benefits can be achieved through 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity spread across the week or combinations of moderate and vigorous intensity activity².

What are the benefits of an exercise program?

A healthy lifestyle incorporating an exercise program will offer you many benefits including:

  • Maintaining weight loss
  • Boosting your metabolism
  • Reducing your risk of developing heart disease and some types of cancer
  • Enhancing your self-esteem and confidence
  • Helping develop and maintain muscle strength, endurance and tone
  • Promoting joint stability, bone strength and integrity
  • Aiding your ability to perform daily living activities
  • Improving your skin elasticity
  • Elevating your mood, reducing stress and anxiety
  • Improving your overall health, well-being and mental outlook

Can exercise help combat the excess skin after weight loss surgery

While weight loss surgery can successfully remove the fat in your body, it cannot cause your skin to revert to its pre-obesity tightness and firmness. If you have been obese, especially for many years, you may be left with excess folds and rolls of skin, particularly around the breasts, tummy, hips and limbs. These folds and rolls can be difficult to keep clean so you may be vulnerable to developing rashes and infections.

Muscular toning will help tighten and firm up your saggy skin. However, you may consider cosmetic surgery to remove the excess skin. It is best to discuss with a consultant plastic surgeon your cosmetic surgery options.

I never used to exercise before surgery – can I now?

If you haven’t exercised or been active in a long time before your weight loss surgery it may be a daunting prospect to start an exercise program. Also, excess body weight often restricts your ability to be physically active. It is important for you to understand how to work around these mobility limitations.

You will need to develop your own exercise routine that allows you to get out and be active.

  • Swap screen time with time to improve fitness and energy levels.
  • Be sure to start off slowly to prevent injuries.
  • Taking a 5 to 10 minute walk every day is a good start.
  • Increase this amount until you are walking 15 minutes twice a day.
  • There are many options for you to consider such as walking your dog, gardening, cycling, dancing around the house, housework or playing sports.

Talk to your bariatric surgeon about the best exercise regimen for you.

Other top tips for exercising after Bariatric Surgery

  • Begin your exercise program gradually and increase how much you exercise slowly. If it is becoming easy increase the amount of repetitions, time or distance.
  • You should always consider that if it hurts when you do something, stop doing that activity.
  • Develop specific, realistic and achievable goals for your exercise program.
  • Vary workouts to alleviate boredom.
  • Chose physical activities that you enjoy as you will be more likely to continue doing them.
  • Activities that can be incorporated into everyday life may be easier to keep to, such as brisk walking, gardening or cycling.
  • Find the best time of day to exercise; you may prefer exercising first thing in the morning or last thing at night.
  • Keep your walking shoes or exercise clothes in the car.
  • Aim to walk 10,000 steps per day and buy a pedometer
  • Always leave at least 2 hours after eating before you start exercising to help avoid indigestion, heartburn and getting a stitch.
  • Give your muscles at least 24 hours to recover following a workout to allow them to strengthen and recover properly.
  • Drink plenty of water. Your smaller stomach following surgery can make it tough for your body to absorb the water it needs, especially during and after exercise. Always have water by your side and drink regularly.


Janet Klein, MS, RDN, CDN, CDE
By Janet Klein, MS, RDN, CDN, CDE
Janet Klein, MS, RDN, CDN, CDE is Garnet Health Medical Center's Bariatric Surgery Program Director. 

She received her Bachelor of Science Degree in Dietetics from the State University at Oneonta and her Master of Science in Education from Queens College University. She is a Certified Diabetes Educator, a Registered Certified Dietitian-Nutritionist, holds an Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics certificate of Training in Obesity Interventions for Adults and is a member of the Integrated Health group of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS).

She brings more than 35 years of clinical, educational and leadership experience to Garnet Health Medical Center, where she spearheaded the Bariatric Surgery Program in 2008, received Accreditation for the program through the ASMBS in 2011, re-accredited the program through the American College of Surgeons (ACS) Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Quality Improvement Program (MBSAQIP) in 2014, 2017, currently and continues to lead the program with passion.

Janet can be reached at 845-333-2123 or

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