"young woman arms raised standing outdoors"One major lifestyle change that will help you achieve your weight loss and wellness goals after bariatric surgery is getting into a regular exercise routine. The key to a lasting exercise routine is to find exercise that you enjoy doing, which in turn will keep you showing up. Change your mind set on exercise, instead of viewing it as a punishment or only as a means of calorie burning/weight loss, and focus on all the health benefits that come along with exercising!

Benefits of Exercise

  • Improves quality and quantity of sleep
  • Improves mood
  • Slows aging
  • Lowers risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and many types of cancer
  • Improves immune system function
  • Improves memory and lowers risk of dementia
  • Increases energy levels and stamina
  • Helps lower blood sugar and blood pressure
  • Relieves stress
  • Strengthens your heart, muscles, and bones
  • Improves circulation and joint flexibility
  • Prevents injuries and falls

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 anything 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 Do? 

Aim for 30-45 minutes at least 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 to wind down after dinner! All of these things can add up to a full 30-45 minutes of exercise throughout the day.

What Kind of Exercise is Best?

Whatever kind of exercise you actually enjoy doing is what you will stick with! The good news is there are tons of different ways to be physically active, so trying different things to find what you like is key. Get out of your comfort zone and give yoga, Zumba, pickleball, 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 educational exercise Apps and videos available on YouTube that demonstrate how to properly do the moves. Doing a combination of cardio and strength training is important to build and maintain muscle and bone strength, as many bariatric surgery patients lose muscle mass after surgery if they are not incorporating strength training. If you are a beginner, start out using resistance bands and your own body weight FIRST before adding in extra weight to prevent injuries. 

Let’s Take it Outside! 

With the warmer spring weather and more daylight upon us, it provides more opportunities to fit in fitness! Getting outside and doing yard work is a great way to get in movement. Maybe this year you will finally plant that garden you’ve always wanted. Have a bicycle? Look online for nearby bike trails and plan a bike ride with your family or friends. Or if you love hiking, the Hudson Valley has no shortage of hiking trails for all fitness levels. Check out the AllTrails App to find hiking and biking trails near you. With all the lakes in the area, there are also plenty of opportunities to rent a kayak or paddleboard as a fun way to exercise in the great outdoors. If you have children, they are probably itching to get outside too now that winter is over. Play tag, frisbee, soccer, basketball, hide and seek, etc. with your kids instead of screen time. Think outside the box when it comes to physical activity and find enjoyable ways to get that movement in with the whole family! 

In time, the reward of increased energy, flexibility, and/or strength will motivate you to continue exercising regularly until it becomes your new norm. Beginning the new habit of exercise may be hard, but beginning is usually the hardest part! Set realistic exercise goals for yourself to keep track of progress and have milestones to work towards so you will feel that sense of accomplishment. Remember to be patient with yourself, Rome wasn’t built in a day! 



Carley Salas MS, RDN, CDN
By Carley Salas MS, RDN, CDN
Bariatric Dietitian Educator

Carley Salas, 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) 333-2830 or

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