You’ve probably made the same resolution for years: Lose weight. And with gastric sleeve surgery, that goal is finally a real, lasting possibility. But with all the emphasis on what foods to eat—and not eat—after gastric sleeve, sometimes the importance of exercise gets lost. Here’s how to make exercise a part of your healthy sleeve weight loss all year long.
Step 1: Start Back Slowly
Gastric sleeve is a minimally invasive procedure, which means many patients recover relatively quickly. People typically start walking (just a bit!) within a day or two of surgery, but formal exercise should wait at least 10 days. In the beginning, especially, walking is a fabulous choice for sleeve patients. Start with stretches of 10 to 15 minutes, gradually increasing that time as you’re able without overdoing it.
Many of my patients also really enjoy swimming. This easy-on-the-body cardio workout can be done as soon as your wounds are completely healed, which is usually around 15 days or so post-surgery.
Step 2: Pick up the Pace
There are very few hard-and-fast rules when it comes to living and losing with a gastric sleeve because everyone is different. But starting an exercise program within the first four weeks after surgery is one of those rules. If you want to be successful, that is. Assuming your beginning efforts are going well, we want you to be doing cardio exercise like walking or swimming five times a week for 40 to 60 minutes each session.
Then, it’s time to kick it up another notch. By three or four months post-op (no sooner than a month after your sleeve), we advise adding resistance training like weightlifting or rowing. Adding strength training to your workouts builds muscle faster, which burns more calories even while you’re at rest. And ladies, don’t worry that weight training will turn you into Arnold Schwarzenegger. For better or worse, it’s incredibly difficult for women to “bulk up.”
Step 3: Keep it Up
It’s impossible to overemphasize the difference that exercise can make to your weight loss journey. All of my successful patients have two things in common: They eat what they should and they work out. One without the other makes the whole process longer, slower, and more frustrating. When patients ask about weight stalls or losing the last few pounds—both are very common—exercise is one of two directions I point them in. Watching carbs is the other, by the way. Be honest with yourself the whole way. Are you exercising as much as we prescribe? Are you giving it your all during each sweat session? Are you doing enough weight training?
The truth is that weight stalls happen; it’s actually a healthy way for your body to adjust to all that glorious weight loss. But to keep things moving in the right direction, you must be consistent with your exercise—and kick up the intensity when necessary.
Step 4: Look and Feel Great
Isn’t improving your health and appearance what your gastric sleeve decision is all about? And exercise is a huge part of both those things. Studies have consistently shown that people who exercise regularly not only live longer and have fewer health problems, but they’re able to maintain their weight loss indefinitely. Talk about motivation!
But if you need more incentive, there’s a long list of benefits to exercise—like pain relief, appetite suppression, stress reduction, and an increased ability to concentrate at work. It truly touches (and improves) every area of your life.
Many of us make exercise-related resolutions at the beginning of the year. But no matter what the calendar says, it’s always a good time to get up and get moving!