By Delsie McCoy, MS

 

Many bariatric patients recognize the importance of adding activity to their new, healthier lifestyle. For some, regular exercise is a new habit which will take time to master. Therefore, experiencing feelings of being overwhelmed and uncertain about their activity program is normal. Even the seasoned fitness enthusiast can be guilty of some common blunders. Take a look at your exercise program and see if you fall into any of these typical mistakes.

 

Skipping the Warm-Up and Cool-Down

This is one of the most common mistakes, but one of the easiest to fix. Simply take your chosen form of activity and begin slowly, gradually increasing your intensity for about 5-10 minutes. At the end of the workout, gradually reduce the pace and intensity of the activity until breathing normally again, usually about 5-10 minutes. 

 

Warming up prepares the muscles and tendons for the stress of exercise, increases oxygen flow to the muscles and lubricates the joints, thus reducing the chance of injury. Cooling down prevents blood from pooling in the legs which could lead to lightheadedness or dizziness and allows the breathing rate to return to normal gradually. Don’t forget to stretch at the end of the workout while your muscles are still warm. Stretching at the end of the workout may help decrease muscle soreness as well as improve flexibility.

 

Not Exercising at the Appropriate Intensity

What is the appropriate intensity? There are a few different methods, each of which has its advantages as well as limitations. The easiest method is known as the Talk Test. During the activity bout (after warm up and prior to cool down), you should be able to talk in phrases of 3-5 words at the highest intensity and in full sentences at the lowest intensity. If you can sing, it’s time to pick up the pace.

 

The second method is the RPE test or Rating of Perceived Exertion. Imagine a scale of 1 to 10. If 1 represents sitting or lying still and 10 represents the hardest activity or exhaustion, your exercise bout should feel like a 4 to 7 on the scale. 


The third method is to calculate your target heart rate (THR). Step 1 is to determine your estimated maximum heart rate (MHR) by subtracting your age from 220. Step 2 is to determine the low end of the range by multiplying your MHR by 60 percent. Step 3 is to determine the high end of the range by multiplying your MHR by 85 percent. Here’s an example for a 45 year old individual.

 

Step 1: 220- 45 = 175 (MHR)

Step 2: 175 (MHR) x 0.60 = 105

Step 3: 175 (MHR) x 0.85 = 149

 

The target heart rate for a 45 year old would be 105-149. If you take your pulse, count for 10 seconds only to get the most accurate reading. Therefore, you’ll want to divide 105 by 6 to get the low end of the range and repeat for the high end.  Here’s an example:

 

105/6 = 17

149/6 = 25

 

The target heart rate range is 17-25 beats for a 10 second count.

 

Either of these methods is acceptable; choose the method that seems most convenient and user friendly for you.

 

Expecting Immediate Results

People are notorious for wanting instant gratification. Many people start for a week, only to quit because they are seeing any results on the scale.  Remember, exercise is important for many health benefits, not just weight loss. Some of the benefits are more immediate while others take weeks or even months to occur. Try to focus on making activity a lifestyle as opposed to something you do just for weight loss. Remind yourself of benefits other than weight loss, such as improved energy, better sleep, or a more stable mood. 

 

Get support from family and friends to help you remain active even on the tough days. To be healthier for life, you want to maintain your healthy habits. You don’t need to be perfect; just don’t give up.