Weight-loss surgery is a drastic choice in the right direction toward a healthier, higher quality life. Researchers at the Florida Hospital Research Institute for Metabolism and Diabetes (TRI-MD) studied how patients handled exercise after their weight-loss surgery, which is also known as bariatric surgery, and the results were promising. Not only did moderate exercise help with maintaining weight loss, but it also lowered the risks associated with type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.

"This is the first randomized, controlled clinical study that examines the effects of exercise on insulin sensitivity and other cardio and metabolic risk factors following bariatric surgery," said the study’s senior investigator Dr. Bret Goodpaster, director of the Exercise Metabolism Core at the TRI-MD, in a press release."The data support the inclusion of an exercise program following bariatric surgery to further enhance the health of individuals who opt for surgery to lose weight."

Researchers studied 119 participants who lost approximately 50 pounds as a result of their weight-loss surgery, and published their results in The Journal of Clinical Investigation. After the surgery, one group was enrolled in an education program, while the second group participated in the education program in addition to an exercise program. The exercise group performed 120 minutes of exercise each week for 24 weeks and had their vitals checked throughout the study.

The exercise group showed significant improvements in insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism, which both play a role in type 2 diabetes. Most obese people have type 2 diabetes, because they’ve overloaded their bodies with foods, messing up their glucose levels. After weeks of exercising, the group also showed improvements in how efficiently their blood carried oxygen to their muscles and through their circulatory system.

"Importantly, our study showed that aerobic exercise is feasible in this population — a result that directly counters the perception that severely obese individuals cannot respond to lifestyle interventions," Goodpaster said. "Moreover, we have identified specific, non-weight-related health benefits that exercise confers on these individuals. We look forward to additional studies to determine the optimal amount and type of exercise that produces the best physiological results."

Bariatric surgery is actually recommended by the National Institutes of Health for clinically obese individuals. It involves taking a small portion of the stomach and creating a new pouch about the size of an egg, which helps them feel fuller faster and lowers their caloric intake. In America, more than 200,000 people undergo bariatric surgery, which is not a large number considering there are 78.6 million obese adults in this country today.

Exercise can step in where the small stomach fails. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the average adult needs 150 minutes of moderate-to-intense exercise a week. It can help jumpstart the once obese person back into a healthier state by regulating sugar levels and getting oxygen flow back through the body. It’s a way of teaching unhealthily obese people how to live by showing them, instead of just putting them through an education program and hoping they took notes.

Source: Goodpaster B. The Journal of Clinical Investigation. 2014.