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Exercise Tips for Pre-Op Weight Loss

I know this may be a sensitive topic for some people. After all, the whole reason you're having weight loss surgery is because you've TRIED the whole exercise and diet thing before. I get it.

There's long-standing controversy and debate around requiring bariatric patients to lose weight before having surgery. Although the current clinical guidelines do not require pre-op weight loss, many insurance companies do.

Insurance companies often mandate that patients partake in a 6-12 month weight management program. Many surgeons disagree with these mandates and favor a short-term diet just several weeks before undergoing bariatric surgery.

The value of pre-op weight loss varies from surgeon to surgeon, patient to patient, and insurance company to insurance company.

Bariatric surgery is THE preferred treatment for patients with obesity. So there's no denying that fact. But with that said, bariatric surgery is just one piece of the puzzle for long-term weight loss, weight maintenance, and health.

Following your bariatric surgery procedure, you will be required to follow a diet and an exercise program to be successful. The surgery alone will not help you sustain long-term weight loss or health years down the road.

For this reason, starting an activity program at the VERY BEGINNING of your journey is honestly your best bet. You will have to do it at some point. And the sooner you start, the better off you'll be.

Bariatric patients should be encouraged to lose weight through diet and exercise prior to surgery to experience the best possible outcomes both during and after surgery!


Even the slightest amount of weight loss pre-op can have a lot of benefits for many patients. Research data shows that pre-op weight loss is beneficial on so many different levels and should be encouraged!

On top of getting a jumpstart on your long-term weight loss goals, there are so many other benefits of losing weight pre-op that can actually affect your actual procedure, hospital stay, and overall experience. Let's talk about it.

Higher Success Rate

The earlier you start adopting healthier habits, the better. Don't wait until after the surgery to start changing your habits. Start now!

Lower Mortality Risk

I know this is scary to talk about and the mortality rate in WLS patients is extremely low, it's something worth mentioning. Losing weight pre-op can sometimes be life or death for some patients, especially those with morbid obesity. Even moderate weight loss (5% of excess weight) pre-op can reduce risk of death.

Shorter Hospital Stay

Patients who lose just a few pounds pre-op are usually in and out of the hospital quicker than those who don't lose any weight pre-op.

Reduced Risk of Surgical Complications

If you're losing weight pre-op through a healthy diet and exercise routine, your body is going to thank you! Your blood will flow better, your lungs will work better, your heart will beat easier...Weight loss and exercise can do so much for how your body functions during the actual procedure. The better your body is functioning during the surgery, the lower your risk of complications will be.

*SO! Even if you aren't losing weight pre-op but you start eating healthier, staying active, and drinking more water, you will STILL be 10 steps ahead! Sometimes incorporating healthy food and exercise isn't JUST about weight loss. The way your body functions, moves, and feels ALSO counts.

Shorter Recovery Time

Like I just said, if your body is functioning on a better, healthier level, you are going to have a lower risk of complications which means you'll have a shorter recovery time. If you don't lose any weight pre-op, don't start exercising, and don't start eating healthier, you may find yourself not feeling so hot during the recovery.

Improved Strength & Endurance

Don't overlook this!! The sooner you start losing weight and moving your body, the better you are going to breathe and the stronger you are going to feel. It's as simple as that.

Greater Weight Loss One Year Post-Op

Patients who lost weight pre-op saw greater weight loss at the 3 month, 6 month, and 12 month mark following the procedure. What more motivation do you need?

Exercising WITH Excess Weight

Before you start yelling at me saying, "But I can't move. Everything hurts. I can't exercise." Let's talk. Exercise is almost ALWAYS difficult for people who have excess weight. I know this. BUT! I am a big believer that there is something for everyone and I've made it my mission to figure out ways for people who have excess weight to begin an activity program.

I read a quote from a bariatric patient who said, "When you are very large, even holding up your own body for a 3 minute shower is painful and sometimes, nearly impossible." If this is you, please reach out to me. Email:

I know it's hard to move.

I know you feel pain.

I know that chronic pain and excess weight can really get in the way of staying active.

But I have good news. With just a few simple modifications, you can create an activity program that will work for YOU and will actually benefit you instead of hurt you. Sometimes it just takes a little creativity & some help & support :)

Tips for Exercising Pre-Op

It is SO important that you get clearance from your doctor prior to starting an exercise program during the pre-op stage. Many pre-op patients have underlying health conditions that can become worse with exercise so it's crucial to talk to your doctor first.

The ASMBS recommends 20 minutes a day, 3-4 days a week of mild exercise for pre-op patients that includes both cardio and resistance training.

Here are my tips!

  • Ease into exercise. Carrying excess weight makes certain exercises too painful and jumping into those exercises too fast can be detrimental. You want to avoid getting hurt or feeling any other negative emotion towards exercise.

  • Go slow. So slow. This goes hand-in-hand with easing into a exercise. Don't push yourself too hard or too fast. Take your time with all workouts and all activity!

  • Do seated movements. There are so many exercises you can do right from a chair. Don't underestimate those!!

  • Avoid floor exercises. Getting up and down from the floor can be a workout by itself for some patients. Many patients find it discouraging when they try to do a plank or crunches on the floor and have a hard time just getting up. For this reason, avoid the floor.

  • Keep an exercise journal. Moving your body is not only physically challenging, it can be emotionally challenging. With every difficult movement comes the reminder of your excess weight which can be discouraging for a lot of people. Keeping a journal can help you track all of your progress, goals, emotions, and so much more while you're on this journey. Countless studies show that writing down goals and keeping a journal can be so beneficial! It can't hurt to try!

  • Don't overcomplicate it. Just move! Don't get caught up in what you think you should be doing when it comes to exercise. Just get up and do something.

  • Be open-minded. Try all kinds of activities until you find ones that you like! This may take some experimenting but being open-minded and keeping a positive attitude will help you find what works for you! The type of activity you do doesn't matter. All that matters is that you're doing something.

  • Don't join a gym. Well, I shouldn't tell you NOT to. But I definitely don't think it's necessary. At this stage in the game, there are so many things you can do right in your home that you don't need the gym for. The gym can be very discouraging for a lot of patients. They are unsure what to do, feel uncomfortable, and end up hating it. I don't want that to happen to you! But if working out at home just isn't an option for you or if you happen to love the gym, then by all means, go for it!

  • Identify high-risk activities. And avoid them! If you know you have knee pain, don't try to squat! If you know you get out of breath easily, don't go for a run. Of course at this stage almost all activity is going to feel very hard, but talk to your doctor and identify high-risk activities that you should avoid.

Remember: even a small amount of weight loss pre-op has significant positive influences on your bariatric journey! If you need help or have any questions, please reach out :)

The information and other content provided in this blog, or in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment.


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