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Obese people can handle heavy exercise after bariatric surgery, study finds

July 08, 2011|By Jeannine Stein, Los Angeles Times / For the Booster Shots blog
  • Moderate to vigorous exercise seems to be OK for morbidly obese people after bariatric surgery.
Moderate to vigorous exercise seems to be OK for morbidly obese people after… (Wang Zhide / Getty Images )

Having bariatric surgery doesn't mean you have to take it easy on exercise. A study finds that after surgery, exercising regularly at a moderate to vigorous pace may be perfectly fine -- and might improve one's quality of life.

The study, published online recently in the journal Obesity, assigned 33 people with an average BMI of 41 (considered class III obesity, or morbidly obese) to either a 12-week exercise program or to a control group. The exercise group started out expending 500 calories a week, gradually increasing that to reach a goal of burning 2,000 calories a week. Exercise was mostly done on a treadmill at a moderate to vigorous pace.

Both groups followed a diet recommended for people who have had bariatric surgery.

By the last month of the study, about half of the participants were burning those 2,000 calories a week via exercise, and more than 80% were burning at least 1,500 calories. They weren't cutting back on movement the rest of the time, since their steps per day went from about 4,500 to about 10,000. The exercise group also saw a 10% cardiovascular improvement relative to their body weight. Both groups lost about the same amount of weight, about 10 pounds.

Those who exercised also reported higher health-related quality of life scores compared with the control group in areas such as physical function, self-esteem and energy levels.

"Until now, we didn't know until now whether morbidly obese bariatric surgery patients could physically meet this goal," said senior author Dr. Abhimanyu Garg of UT Southwestern Medical Center, in a news release. "Our study shows that most bariatric surgery patients can perform large amounts of exercise and improve their physical fitness levels."

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