Why Exercise Is Essential Before Weight Loss Surgery

Over the past few months, I’ve talked about some of the ways in which ProMedica Weight Loss helps prepare patients for bariatric surgery — starting with insurance criteria and then focusing on nutrition and diet history. In this column, I’ll talk about exercise, which is the third part of the equation in getting patients ready for surgery.

Many of our patients are not in excellent physical shape when they enter our program. We want our patients to do the best possible with surgery, and improving physical conditioning before surgery helps our patients recover quicker and with fewer problems after the operation. We help all of our patients improve physical conditioning by starting them in an exercise program individualized for their needs.

Improving physical conditioning before surgery helps our patients recover quicker and with fewer problems.

Some patients can start a robust physical training program in the gym right out of the gate, whereas other patients are severely limited with mobility. ProMedica’s program offers a wide variety of physical conditioning options, ranging from aqua therapy, aerobics classes (both wet and dry), strength training and aerobics, in conjunction with our regional partners.

It is very important that our patients be started in a program that is right for them. A lot of our patients are otherwise healthy and in pretty good shape. I like these patients to start in a more-robust exercise program and at least start with a session or two under the supervision of a personal trainer. Although patients are oftentimes excited to get going with their weight loss journey, a good personal trainer will ensure that the exercise plan doesn’t result in injury.

What are the steps to weight loss surgery?

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So often, I see people interested in weight loss start in the gym with a lot of gung-ho excitement. After a strenuous workout or two, these people get hurt or are sore, and ultimately decide not to exercise because of these injuries. A personal trainer, especially one well-versed in the care of bariatric patients, knows how to avoid these injurious pitfalls and get you started right. Once you have a tailored exercise plan that works for you, then you can branch out on your own.

Patients often worry about the cost of joining a gym or getting a lot of home exercise equipment. The reality is that, with less than $40 of equipment (exercise ball, a couple 5lb weights), and a neighborhood (free), you can complete about 90% of the exercise you need, in order to prepare yourself well for surgery. The last 10% are super-duper secrets that only a good personal trainer can divulge to you.

In my next blog entry, I will discuss the final factor in determining how long you will have to wait for bariatric surgery — the emotional issues related to food, weight loss, and obesity. Stay tuned and, in the meantime, feel free to leave comments and questions below.


Daniel McCullough, MD, has been a bariatric surgeon for the past 10 years. Prior to joining ProMedica Physicians in July 2016, Dr. McCullough practiced in Maryland, Delaware and Virginia. He completed a Bariatric Surgery fellowship at The University of Virginia, residency in General Surgery at The University of Toledo Medical Center, and medical school at the Medical College of Ohio (UTCOM). He is a native of Toledo, Ohio.