Best Exercise Programs After Gastric Sleeve Surgery

feet on grass

A weight loss lifestyle does not end with gastric sleeve surgery. In fact, gastric sleeve surgery is the gateway to the weight loss lifestyle. Post-surgery is the start of the lifestyle change. Exercise is a large part of that change. Exercising, other than diet alterations, is the only other activity you can do that will effectively bring down your weight after surgery.

Starting Exercise After Gastric Sleeve Surgery

You can only begin exercise between 3 to 6 weeks after surgery, to give your body time to heal from the surgery. While waiting to begin, focus on your diet. Remember that, for weight maintenance, you need to be burning as many calories as you take in. For weight loss, you need to burn more calories than you take in.

Regulating your diet this early will help you get used to eating smaller, healthier portions throughout the day. Your metabolism will stabilize, and you can work on creating the habit of eating small portions. You need this habit so when you begin to exercise, you will still keep your calorie intake constant (not increasing) while you burn them.

Why Start Exercise After Gastric Sleeve Surgery?

Calorie-counting and diet-watching is not the most cheerful of post-surgery pastimes. Exercise improves the mental state by giving you clear, achievable short-term goals that you can see yourself reaching. This encouragement, accompanied by a sense of physical well-being, helps you set your mind on achieving your weight-loss goals.

Exercise also increases your metabolism speed, which will automatically begin to slow down as you eat less food. Your body thinks you are fasting, so it conserves energy in the fat. As you exercise, your metabolism speeds up, and eats that energy. Even when you are not in physical activities, your calorie-burn will speed up.

How To Prepare For Exercise Programs

First, do not aim to run a 10-kilometer marathon within the year. It is an ambitious goal, but you might start too intense and burn out quickly. Even worse, you might injure yourself, and the injury will definitely set your progress back. Instead, aim for consistent, increasingly difficult exercises. Set attainable goals per month, and work consistently at them. If you try to go too fast too soon, you might make less progress than you expect, and become discouraged.

Which Exercise Programs Do I Start With?


Believe it or not, walking is the best place you can start. For weight maintenance, even normal-weight people walk an hour a day while eating their regular amount of calories. About 3 weeks after surgery, you can begin very light walks. Begin with 20 to 30 minute walks a day, on flat surfaces (no slopes or stairs just yet).


To make it easier to do, especially if 20 minutes seems daunting, break the session into two. Take a 10-minute walk in the morning, and then another 10-minute walk in the afternoon or evening. Walking quickens your metabolism for faster calorie burn. Cardiovascular problems are reduced by 31%, and improves length of life by 32%.

As you get used to the rhythm and habit of the 30-minute walk, increase the difficulty of the walks. For example, instead of walking along a flat surface for 10 minutes, walk up a slight slope, or put some stairs into the mix. If you have been walking in the park, find a route that will take you slightly uphill. This will prepare you for harder exercises.

As you get used to these harder walks, increase the duration slowly. Walk 15 minutes each time instead of 10, and try to reach an hour every day. Even if you split the walks, at least aim for that hour. You are forming the habit of exercise, and also developing mental toughness. Push yourself to reach your attainable goals for each week.


After you have reached the one-hour mark in walking, you need to start developing core strength, and balance. To do the other exercises you need, you have to start with those.  Improving core strength is one of the most important.

The classic example of strength-building is an arm lifting weights. The classic symbol for “strength” is a flexed bicep. However, most professional athletes actually have more core strength than anything else. Core muscles are composed of every muscle group, except those in the arms and legs. The most obvious of the core muscles are found in the belly.


Core strength improves overall body strength and coordination. With a strong core, your arms and legs will move more efficiently. You will also have more balance, and find yourself with more endurance and stamina.

One effective way to build core strength in a non-dangerous way is through marching–not jumping, not bouncing–on a mini-trampoline with a built-in support bar. The natural springiness of the trampoline causes you to adjust and balance, but without stress and too much pain or pressure on your joints.

Begin, like when you started walking, with 20 to 30 minutes of marching a day, 10 minutes per session. Start slowly, for habit- and strength-building. Slowly increase duration, and continue regularly to keep up your progress.

Stationary Bike

The stationary bike graduates you from simple marching and walking. With the stationary bike, you increase the intensity of your use of leg muscle groups. You are required to exert more overall effort than when walking or using the mini-trampoline. Start with the easier settings, and then slowly adjust them to make pedaling harder.


The best part about the stationary bike is that it does not put too much pressure on the joints. While you are exercising the muscle groups, your joints will have a chance to stretch and release. Since people under weight loss programs are usually very heavy, vigorous or intense activity may harm their joints. This would badly set back the patient’s therapy.

Begin the stationary bike at the easiest setting, and within your 10-minute time frame. As the muscles strengthen and weight is lost, you will be able to increase the time of exercising and the difficulty of the biking.


Swimming is, bar none, one of the best post-op surgery exercises you can do. If you feel confident enough, you can begin swimming at the same time you begin the first rounds of walking. Swimming places no pressure on the joints, exercises the whole body, and is actually quite easy because fat makes it easier for you to float.

Swimming is associated with a release of stress and tension, which acts as encouragement for habit-forming exercises. A Speedo survey says 70% of swimmers are refreshed in mind after a swim, 74% feel lighter and more relaxed, and 68% experience an increase in self-esteem. All those are needed for encouragement to continue with exercises.

The best part about swimming is that it is 44 times more intensive than walking, because you are moving through water and not air. However, your buoyancy in the water means you only rely on 10% of your weight at a given time. You are working harder, but feeling your weight much less. You also are less at risk of overheating or fainting during exercise.

gastric sleeve exercises

Warning: Joint Pain Does Not Mean Better Intensity

Do not focus on building on intensity, but on stamina and long-lasting strength and endurance. Because of this, joint pain is not a signal that you are doing well. Some people, who constantly want to push their limits, try to work out and then just stick it out through the pain. However, they face another danger: over-training and possible long-term injury.

As you begin to exercise, and to increase your exercises, expect the normal aches and pains to begin to appear. Especially with walking, using the mini-trampoline, or cycling on the stationary bike, your leg muscles will probably ache. However, you should not feel aches at the ankle, knee, or hip. Joint pain means you are putting too much pressure on the joint.

The moment you feel pain, stop the exercise. Take note of your own time limits. If you began walking at 10 minutes a session, and then decided to increase it to 15, stop if you feel pain at 13 minutes. If you establish that your best session duration at the moment is 12 minutes, then reduce the session to 12 minutes. The build-up is slow, but the more you take care of yourself, the less likely you are to injure yourself and relapse because you had to stop to recover.

The Key to the Best Exercise Program: Form the Habit

You can have the best running shoes money can buy, and still walk irregularly. You can have the best swimsuit you can find, and still swim irregularly. You can have a mini-trampoline in every room, and still march irregularly. If you do not form the steady habit of exercise, you will end up excusing yourself from it every day.

Start slow, with short and attainable goals. You need to get used to the feeling of a walk every day, making it part of daily life. Make a checklist of goals, and post them up somewhere. After you increase a session time, or increase session intensity, check it on the checklist. That way, you can see your progress. Stay encouraged–exercise is effective, so just give it time.