Swimming – Its Benefits and Potential Risks

Swimming is without a doubt one of the best and most effective exercises that a postoperative bariatric patient can start. Just a few of the many benefits of the swimming include:

  • A full body workout. Swimming blends both cardiovascular and strength training. Not only that, but it works out virtually every muscle in the body, including some muscles that we wouldn’t otherwise exercise. The results improve strength, stamina and offers muscular support for weaker joints and tendons.
  • No impact. Swimming is a non-impact sport, meaning that as you lose weight, you don’t need to worry about damage to joints in the knees or elsewhere. Low and no impact exercise is key to getting your postoperative exercise program on track early on. Low impact is especially helpful for those with excess weight adding pressure to joints, arthritis, or other joint conditions.
  • Year round. Your local gym, community center or school is likely to have an indoor or heated pool meeting that you can swim any time you’d like…rain or shine. This allows you to get into a routine, meet new people and challenge yourself throughout the year.
  • You don’t just have to do laps. Swimming offers a range of competitive and even team activities that can keep you interested week after week, month after month. You can also pepper in some aquatic aerobics or other exercise program along with doing laps. It’s hard to get bored.
  • Enjoy the outdoors. If you do have an outdoor swimming pool near you, take some extra time to walk to and from the pool all the while enjoying your surroundings.

With all these fantastic benefits, there are a few considerations for patients starting their swimming regimen:

  • Don’t start too soon. For the first few weeks after surgery, you should not submerge your wounds – that means no bath or swimming pool until you are cleared. This is very important to avoid complications at your wound site.
  • Practice good form. If you are not a seasoned swimmer, you may wish to take a lesson or two on proper form. There is a tendency, for example, not to use our legs as much as we should, which can put serious strain on our shoulders and cause injury. Understanding proper form avoids injury, maximizes the physical benefit you are receiving and keeps swimming enjoyable.
  • Avoid the tendency to over eat after swimming. You may find that after an intense swim, you feel hungrier. This is perfectly normal. Swimming reduces your body temperature and your brain looks to correct that. Eating food, and resultant metabolic boost, does just that. You may also be dehydrated after swimming, especially if it was a vigorous workout. It is hard to notice your sweat when you’re in the water. Dehydration triggers hunger sensations. Rather than heading to the fridge after a swim, satisfy the urge first with water for hydration. You’ll likely find your hunger subsiding shortly thereafter and you’ll avoid consuming hundreds of unnecessary calories in the process.
  • Don’t burn out. You may feel better after swimming and you may even notice a difference in your shape and musculature within a few weeks or months of starting your swim regimen. However, as with anything, it is easy to overdo it and burn out. Therefore, we suggest always switching up your exercises – maybe going for a bike ride, going to the gym or otherwise to make sure that swimming stays interesting and fun.

We encourage all of our patients to swim as much as possible within their physical limits. It is an excellent exercise with only a few potential issues and it is an exercise that can be both enjoyable and effective.

Our Surgical Weight Loss Program and Bariatric Surgery Center's mission is to deliver safe and effective surgical solutions with a compassionate touch. Our bariatric program is operated by NYU Langone Long Island Surgical Associates, P.C., a network of leading physicians and surgeons that provide comprehensive care for patients.

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