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Swimming – A Great Post Bariatric Surgery Exercise With A Couple Caveats

In the bariatric postoperative recovery process, we encourage patients to not only diet, but also exercise more frequently and consistently. In the beginning, as wounds are healing, exercise may be in the form of several minutes or even a half hour of walking, as tolerated. However, as patients begin to increase their activity levels, we like to see them perform somewhat strenuous, but low impact, activities. Contact sports, running and more can all be very stressful on the joints, especially with excess weight, and should therefore be avoided.

Swimming is a fantastic exercise that is easy on the joints yet works virtually every muscle in the body.  For that reason, not to mention getting outside and enjoying the sunshine, we like to promote swimming as one of the best exercises after bariatric surgery.  It is very important to make sure your surgeon has advised you that your incisions are healed enough to get in a pool.

However, patients must be aware of a couple caveats that may seem insignificant on the surface but can actually create a problem long-term.

First, is form. We encourage patients who like to swim to make sure that they are using correct form and posture as they swim. Not doing so can be detrimental to the joints in the body and ultimately cause injury, which will result in decreased activity and the potential for weight regain. For example, if one does not kick properly when swimming the crawl, the legs can sink, and shoulders bear the brunt of the exercise. This may lead to an overuse injury.

The second important consideration to make when swimming is that cool water reduces body temperature. If you wonder why you feel very hungry after a day at the pool, even if you haven’t performed strenuous swimming activity, it’s because your body is looking for food to increase its metabolism and bring its temperature back up. This creates the potential for overeating – and remember that a little bit of food can offset a lot of exercise. As a result, we suggest that patients who do enjoy swimming only drink water in the hour after swimming. This allows the body to readjust its temperature while staying hydrated and avoid overeating.

The Bottom Line

Swimming is wonderful – it is a great exercise that works many of the important major and even minor muscle groups in the body. We encourage swimming as a wonderful way to get the exercise that patients need after bariatric surgery. As long as these two considerations are taken into account, we believe that swimming can be a very satisfying and helpful exercise for any patient after their bariatric procedure.

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