Tracking Activity after Bariatric Surgery

Tracking Activity after Bariatric SurgeryFor a number of years, bariatric surgeons debated the value of exercise after weight loss surgery. While many surgeons felt exercise should be encouraged because it has many health benefits beyond promoting weight loss through calorie utilization, others felt that the modest number of calories burned (around 150) while walking for 30-45 minutes a day were too few to impact a patient’s weight loss success, so they did not advocate it.

Exercise Improves Weight Maintenance

New research shows that increasing physical activity, either through lifestyle activity or through a formalized exercise program, improves bariatric surgery patients’ ability to maintain their weight loss. Similar results have been observed in studies of people who lost weight by dieting.

If you are like many bariatric surgery patients, you have learned to move as little as possible because of the discomfort and pain you have experienced while carrying sometimes more than 100 pounds of excess weight. Now that your excess weight will start peeling off, it is time to turn over a new leaf. Once your surgeon says you can go home, you can begin to be more active, one step or stretch at a time. If the word exercise makes you cringe, think of it in friendlier terms like putting more movement into your daily activities.

Simple Strategies for Adding Activity to Your Life

Simple ways to increase your activity are to get up and walk around the couch or room during each TV commercial and to move your feet and arms while sitting. There are even complete gentle exercise routines that can be performed while sitting. You can find information about them by looking up chair aerobics on the Internet.

As your weight comes down and your strength increases, park your car a bit farther from your destination. Gradually learn to walk stairs by walking up an escalator instead of standing still.

As you become more accustom to and comfortable with moving, start adding two-minute walks into your daily schedule. In the beginning, you may only be able to walk two minutes twice a day. The goal is to gradually build up to at least 30 minutes of walking each day. Add one more step or one more minute of activity a day until you reach this goal.

Benefits of Activity Far Outweigh Weight Loss

Walking is one of the most basic physical activities. It requires no special training or equipment other than comfortable clothes and shoes. Done routinely, walking lowers blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels, which can help prevent or improve medical conditions like diabetes, stroke, obesity, osteoporosis, and heart disease.  Walking is also a good way to reduce stress and boost your mood. Listening to favorite music or, if you choose to walk indoors on a treadmill, watching a favorite TV show can help make walking more enjoyable.

Tracking Activity Promotes Success

Tracking your activity is a good way to make sure you are being as active as you think you are, and it can document subtle signs of progress you may otherwise not notice.

You can document your activity in an exercise journal. Simply note the day, the activity you performed, and the amount of time you spent performing it (see sample below). Be sure to include lifestyle-related activities such as time spent cleaning or gardening.

You can also wear a pedometer to track the number of steps you take during each day. Many modern pedometers track steps, miles, and calories burned. Keep track of the total number of steps recorded on your pedometer in a daily steps log so you can see your progress. If you are using a pedometer, your ultimate goal is accumulate at least 10,000 steps each day. Experts associated with the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health point out that walking 10,000 steps a day will help a person burn off an extra 150 calories. Over the course of a month, taking 10,000 steps each day is equivalent to burning off a pound and a quarter of fat. The average American takes only 2,600-3,500 steps per day, so reaching the 10,000 steps-a-day goal takes concerted effort and requires you to add about 30 minutes of purposeful walking to your daily routine.

SAMPLE Activity Journal

Date ACtivity Time
June 2nd Chair aerobics 2 min while watching TV
Commercial Walking 4 min total during primetime TV ads
Vacuuming Living Rm 5 min
Trimmed rose bushes 5 min

A well-balanced activity plan should include flexibility (stretching) and strengthening exercises as well as aerobic activities. As you develop a more varied and complete exercise program, be sure to track these other forms of activity in your exercise log.

As you learn strategies for adding more activity to your life, remember that small changes can add up to big differences. Try to add at least one more step to your activity level each day. Be patient with yourself while learning to be more active.  It took time to develop your old lifestyle of weight gain, and it will take time to lose weight and become more fit.