Walk On By

Evidence that Exercise Improves Bariatric Surgery Outcomes

It’s conventional wisdom. Ask anyone in the field and they’ll tell you they believe that exercise improves bariatric surgery outcomes. But until now, it’s only been an assumption. So it’s great to have a randomized, controlled trial that proves the point.

A talented team of researchers from three research centers randomized 128 gastric bypass patients to get either six months of supervised moderate exercise or more generalized health education following their surgery. For those in the exercise program, it consisted primarily of walking.

People in the exercise arm had significantly better responses to insulin and glucose at the end of the study. Their cardiorespiratory fitness was significantly better, as well. It’s worth noting that the exercise program had no impact on weight loss. Both groups lost significant weight and fat mass.

All of this is entirely consistent with what we know about the benefits of physical activity for people with obesity. Although it’s not essential for losing weight, it’s very important for health and long-term outcomes. This study is also helpful for dispelling some of the magical thinking that is so tempting with bariatric surgery. The lead investigator, Paul Coen, told Reuters:

The common dogma is that (surgery) is a magic cure for diabetes and weight and maybe they don’t need to do anything else. But our results show that there is still room for therapeutic benefit of exercise.

Conventional wisdom backed by empiric evidence is satisfying to find.

Click here to read the study in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, here to read more from more from Reuters, and here to read background from the Obesity Action Coalition on physical activity for people having bariatric surgery.

Walk On By, photograph © Lachlan Hardy / flickr

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