Pilates Post Bariatric Surgery

You start preparing for a new chapter in your life post Bariatric surgery, which includes healthy eating choices and regular exercise, resulting in better mental and physical health. There are a variety of different exercises that you can do whilst recovering from surgery. It is recommended that you focus on recovery for the first 2 -4 weeks post-surgery before beginning any exercise routine, however recent evidence from exercise interventions after Bariatric surgery suggests that low impact exercise may provide further improvements in metabolic health compared with surgery-induced weight loss alone (Coen & Goodpaster; 2015). Pilates offers a low impact option that can be adjusted and modified for each individual fitness level and body shape.

Pilates is an exercise modality that was developed in Germany during World War I by Joseph Pilates intended to help rehabilitate injured soldiers. His method stressed the use of the mind to control the muscles and was often used to help heal and build strength in individuals who were recovering from injuries. Joseph Pilates often referred to his method as “the thinking man’s exercise” due to the improvement in memory and other cognitive functions that results from doing it. His six principles were centering, concentration, control, precision, breath and flow. A clear mind reduces stress, which leads to an improvement in overall health as an added bonus (Ludwig; 2008).

According to Olson & Smith (2005), Pilates burns approximately 4.0 – 7.5 kilocalories per minute, thus many post Bariatric clients report losing weight. Pilates is ideal for the post Bariatric client as it corrects poor balance, biomechanics and proprioception. Other obvious benefits include improvements in posture, stability, flexibility and respiration; easing of aches and pains; stress reduction; and an increase in one’s ability to perform activities of daily living.

Whilst the previously mentioned benefits are boundless, the most significant is the increased deep core strength. In layman’s terms the ‘core’ refers to the area of the body from the shoulders to the hips. Joseph Pilates referred to this area as the ‘Powerhouse’, as the abdominal and pelvic muscles in the area are the centre of the body from which all movement flows and is controlled. A strong core improves muscle isotonic and isometric control which in turn improves posture and alignment leading to increased stress relief from joints. If your abdominals are strengthened, the pelvis will fall more easily into its natural alignment giving the spine the opportunity to lift up and out of the aligned pelvis. The stronger core muscles lift and support the spine as well. It is not unusual for clients to report an increase in height after starting with regular Pilates classes. Pilates activates the deep core muscle groups, Tranverse abdominis and Internal Obliques, as well as the superficial groups, Rectus abdominis and External Obliques. During a study conducted by Olson and Smith (2005) measuring the electrical output via electromyography (EMG) electrodes, they concluded that Pilates workouts activated all core muscle groups and at a much higher rate than regular gym based abdominal workouts such as crunches.

Your body was created to move with a strong midsection. Maximum results are achieved when performing 30 - 60 minutes of Pilates three days per week. As with anything new, start slowly and only go as far as your body will let you. Gently work up to more difficult exercises whilst staying mindful of each movement. Give your body that extra attention to begin living as the healthiest, strongest YOU.

Coen, P. & Goodpaster, B.H. 2015. A role for exercise after Bariatric Surgery.

Ludwig, D., & Kabat-Zinn, J. 2008. Mindfulness in Medicine. The Journal of the American Medical Association, 300 (11), 1350–52.

Olson, M., & Smith, C.M. 2005. Pilates exercise: Lessons from the lab. IDEA Fitness Journal, 2(10), 38–43.


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