We are often asked at the Centre for Bariatric Surgery (zfbc): How soon should I start active exercise or sport after bariatric surgery (overweight surgery such as gastric bypass or tubular stomach), how often, and which sports am I actually allowed to do?

Why do we need sport?

Active movement serves to maintain and build up the musculature. What used to be achieved through physical labour is now very limited in many sedentary occupations. Walking and running serve to strengthen the supporting apparatus such as joints and bones and to promote blood circulation. Furthermore, regular exercise increases calorie burning at rest and improves insulin sensitivity. Another benefit of active exercise is the tightening of the connective tissue. Overall, sport leads to a long-term improvement in health and thus also to a balance in work and everyday life. Ultimately, a good dose of active exercise with recommended regularity also has the effect of prolonging life.

From post-op rest to activity

After a gastric bypass or sleeve operation, it is of course necessary to wait a few days before starting a light sports programme again. In the first days after the surgical intervention, the focus is on pain management and healing of the wounds after minimally invasive surgery (keyhole surgery). As soon as you are mobile again, always after consultation with the doctor treating you, you can then start active exercise relatively quickly (after 2-3 weeks).

Which sport is recommended?

Which sport: swimming? Cycling? Jogging? Some patients already know what sport they want to do. Others used to do sport and then stopped because they were overweight or had joint pain. If you are undecided, you should decide to try 3-4 different things once. However, extreme sports should be avoided. If you have health restrictions, you should exclude certain types of sport; in this case, the doctor treating you must provide advice. If you decide to go to a gym, it is advisable to look for an accomplished trainer. This professional answers questions about which exercises, which equipment or which group courses are suitable.

Patients like to try out the following sports: Zumba dancing, aqua jogging or aqua gymnastics, cycling and fitness training. Going to the gym is the most popular option. Here you combine strength and endurance sports in a balanced way. It’s best to go together with your partner, a girlfriend or friends. For patients with severe limitations, it is recommended to start with walking or moderate to fast walking. This can be implemented at any time without excuses and is individually adaptable. The gym is also recommended for cycling in the beginning. There you can safely start to regain strength and endurance to be prepared for rides outside with your own bike. This is safer and avoids unnecessary dangers in road traffic or falls.

Encourage motivation

So: on the one hand, don’t overdo it, on the other hand, start with motivation! An early start can positively influence regeneration and weight loss. The metabolism is accelerated and you can achieve more in everyday life, at work and in sport. But always listen to your inner voice: Don’t overdo it, an increase is always possible later. Regular training will make you fitter and fitter. By spending more time exercising, not only is more energy used, the body also gets used to the increased intensity and you will automatically be able to do more.

Basically, the goal should be to increase slowly. This makes you realise that things are moving forward. You will also notice in everyday life that you are fitter and can do more again. In combination with a balanced and healthy diet, a higher level of resilience is then also achieved in the long term.

Leaving the comfort zone

What’s missing now? It is important to leave the comfort zone. It is difficult to take the first step and not be glued to the couch after work. People often make the excuse that they don’t have time but then spend hours in front of the TV. This time can be put to better use. You just have to discuss it with those around you.

For example, a weekly workload of 3-4 x sports, for a total of about 150 minutes, would be good. You should not push yourself to the maximum achievable limit, but occasionally an intense session brings progress, combined with the release of happy hormones. Then you feel satisfied and comfortable. An occasional muscle ache doesn’t matter at all, it’s gone after a few days. Enjoy the sport!

At the Centre for Bariatric Surgery (www.zfbc.ch), we are at your side to advise you if you have questions about when you can start which sports? Please ask us. We are also ready to answer your questions at the swiss1chirurgie clinic of Bern Visceral Surgery Steffen AG as a surgical partner of the zfbc. The specialised surgeons in the swiss1chirurgie clinic will tell you in a personal consultation what may be done after the operation in a specific individual case.