Stay Fit After WLS

No Gym, No Problem – Finding Your Favorite Ways to Stay Fit After WLS

August 30, 2017

It’s easy to get caught up in the notion that we must go to a gym to get fit.  But the reality is that our own bodies are more than sufficient to get us in great shape. So, no you don’t have to join a fancy gym or buy all sorts of equipment to get in shape. Sure, they can help in the process but don’t let that deter you from getting fit because you can do a lot with just you.

If any movement hurts; you’ll need to determine what movement will work for you, keep you out of pain, and reduce injury.  Often movement will cause less pain in the long run. This is especially true if you suffer from arthritis. Arthritic joints yearn for movement; in fact, the less you move them the more stiff and achy they tend to feel. Just remember that if you’re doing an exercise and you feel the pain in the joint that isn’t healthy pain; in other words, don’t work through joint pain. This would be the time to modify the movement and perform a similar exercise in a different way or maybe choose a whole new exercise altogether.

Now, if you’re not doing anything, the first step is to move.  And it’s also important to find something that is fun or at least something you enjoy doing. If you’re already exercising, but need more structure and have a desire to build upon your current fitness, you’ll want to evaluate your current workout regimen.

Ask yourself, “Is my workout routine balanced upon the four pillars of fitness: cardiovascular, strength, flexibility and nutrition?”

Balanced Exercise Routines To Do Anywhere & Anytime

Stay Fit After WLS - Cardio

Let’s start with cardio.  Walking is a great cardiovascular activity and will be the first step in getting fit so long as walking doesn’t complicate any joint conditions. And you only need YOU to walk, well maybe you need a good pair of tennis shoes, but outside of the shoes you don’t need anything else.

So just start walking and try to increase your daily steps. If walking hurts your joints (i.e. you have bad hips, knees or feet and walking complicates these issues), you may need to do most of your exercise from a seated position or choose a cardiovascular activity that doesn’t bother your joints.

Swimming is a great option that is low impact to the joints. Cycling is also relatively low impact and might work better for you. Now if you’ve already been walking, it’s time to mix it up and increase the intensity a bit.  Throw in a few power walking (walk at a faster pace) intervals into your walking regimen.

Here are a few simple walking routines to improve your cardiovascular fitness:

  • Beginner: Walk for 5 minutes; gradually increase the duration by adding 5 minutes to each walking workout. Build up to 60 minutes of walking 3-6 x per week.
  • Intermediate: Do 20 minutes of walking intervals and build up to 60 minutes. Your intervals may look something like this: walk slow for 3 minutes and power walk for 2 minutes. Continue this walking interval for the full duration and gradually build up to 60 minutes total.
  • Advanced: Build up to a slow walk, power walk, and jog. Start out with a 2 min walk/2 min power walk/1 min jog.  As you increase your fitness decrease the duration of the walk and increase the duration of the power walk and jog intervals (i.e. 1-minute walk/1-minute power walk/ 3-minute jog).

Note: if you are using a different modality for your cardio you can still use a similar interval type training outline to increase the overall intensity of your workouts.

Stay Fit After WLS - Strength Training

Now it’s time to incorporate strength training.  Strength training is an important component of fitness because it helps build healthy bones, improves muscle tone and mass, keeps the metabolism revved up, and improves your strength and overall balance.  Believe it or not, you can get a total body workout with your own body weight.

These are strength training exercises that will improve your muscle tone and mass:

  • Chair Squats:  All you need is a chair and your body. Simply square your feet shoulder width apart while sitting in a chair and then stand up.  Sit back down and repeat this motion.  Release your body weight into the chair at each repetition (in other words sit all the way down into the chair and then stand back up).  Repeat for 10-20 repetitions.  As you gain strength barely touch the chair with your butt and then stand back up; this will create more strain and ultimately strength in the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes.
  • Chair V-Ups: Sit on the edge of your chair and simply pull your knees into your chest. If this is too difficult, take one leg at a time and lift the knee toward the chest and then alternate legs.
  • Push-Ups: there are many variations of the push-up. You may need to start with a wall push-up and progress to a full push-up from the floor.  Variations in between include a push-up from the back of a couch, a chair, or from your knees.  Ultimately the goal will be to perform a full body push-up.
  • Planks:  This is yet another exercise that has progressions and is excellent for improved core strength. Start in a push-up position, but rest on your elbows vs. your hands (this puts less strain on the wrist joints). Make sure the elbows are stacked directly beneath the shoulders. For the time you're doing this exercise, you’ll hold a full plank in an isometric (i.e. static) position.
  • Shoulder Wall Retractions – Stand against the wall and put your arms at 90 degrees with both forearms against the wall. Hold the arms against the wall for a 5-10 second count and then reach up over your head, touch your hands and then bring the arms back and down to a 90-degree position.  Relax and repeat.  This exercise will strengthen both your upper back as well as your shoulders.
  • Trunk Rotations: Sit on the floor or a chair and clasp your hands together out in front of you. Lean back and then slowly rotate the arms back and forth in an 180-degree range of motion.  Repeat for 15-20 repetitions (back and forth is one repetition).

Stay Fit After WLS - Flexibility

Another important component of fitness is flexibility!  Stretching is often overlooked, but extremely important for a well-balanced total body workout.  It’s best to stretch after your workout because the muscles are already warmed up and stretching speeds up recovery and prevents muscle soreness.

These are some flexibility exercises that are great for your after workout routine:

  • Hamstring Stretch – Bend at the waist and simply reach for your toes. Hold for 30 seconds.
  • Pectoral and biceps stretch – Stand in a doorway with arms outstretched on each side of the door frame below the shoulders.  Slowly step forward into the doorway until you feel a good stretch in the pecs and biceps.  Hold for 30 seconds.
  • Upper back stretch – Hold onto a bar, a table, railing, small tree, or another secure object with both hands.  Slowly lean back and let the arms stretch all the way out in front of you while you let your head come between the arms. Slowly arch your back and feel the stretch in the upper back.  Hold for 30 seconds.
  • Abdominal stretch – Reach overhead with both arms as if you’re going to touch the sky.  Hold that stretch for 30 seconds.

Of course, before you begin any exercise routine, check with your doctor or bariatric surgeon first.

And finally, don’t forget to compliment your exercise routine with a well-balanced diet.  One that consists of whole foods.  It is best to eat smaller meals more frequently throughout the day.


Julia Karlstad, M.Ed., CSCS, SFN-ISSA has over thirteen years of experience developing, managing, and operating health and fitness programs. In 2008, she founded JKFITNESS, LLC, a personal training and wellness studio. Her studio was named 2018's "Best Fitness Studio" in San Antonio Magazine. Julia was featured with one of her clients on TLC's "My 600-Lb Life" reality show. She has authored two books that educate and motivate about exercise, Rx Fitness for Weight Loss and Bariatric Fitness.