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How Physical Therapy can Help with Bariatric Surgery

How Physical Therapy can Help with Bariatric Surgery

Dec 17, 2021

If bariatric surgery is in your future, you’ve likely already started developing new, healthy habits to make recovery—and your new life—easier. You and your care team may have discussed changes like diet and exercise. Your team may also recommend pre- and postoperative physical therapy. 

“Physical therapy, also called PT, can help you reduce pain when you move, strengthen your muscles and increase your flexibility,” said Keith Kreitz, M.D., F.A.C.S., medical director of Bariatric Surgery at Inspira Medical Center Mullica Hill. “Taking part in PT both before and after bariatric surgery can ensure that you can move around easily, with little pain, and build strength at the same time.”

Preoperative Physical Therapy

Physical therapy before bariatric surgery can improve the way your heart, lungs and muscles work together for long periods of time, called cardiorespiratory fitness,” said Vanessa Vander, PT, DPT, physical therapist with Inspira Medical Center Mullica Hill’s Rehab Services team. 

The American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS) recommends aerobic conditioning and light resistance training 20 minutes per day, three to four days per week leading up to surgery.

When you meet with a physical therapist, they will discuss your health issues with you and then develop a workout regimen customized for your needs. The regimen should include exercises you can do at home between PT sessions.

“Your physical therapist will teach you how to do specific exercises that can help increase endurance and strengthen your muscles, with joint protections in mind to help prepare for surgery,” said Vander. 

There are not only physical benefits to preoperative PT, but mental benefits as well. Taking part in PT before surgery can help you adopt a positive mindset about the big life changes that are about to take place. And, increasing physical activity before surgery can help to build confidence in your post-operative regimen. 

Postoperative Physical Therapy

Following bariatric surgery, every patient’s recovery is different. But it’s important to begin moving soon after to reduce the risk of blood clots and other post-surgery complications. When your surgeon and other providers feel you are ready, you can begin postoperative physical therapy.

“After bariatric surgery, it’s even more important to do PT and move without pain, or with as little pain as possible,” said Jamie Miller, PT, DPT, physical therapist with Inspira Medical Center Mullica Hill’s Rehab Services team.

Your PT regimen will start with exercises that are right for you and will progress according to your individual rate of recovery. Your Physical Therapist may also offer tips for new daily routines to increase your level of physical activity at home. 

“PT can help you to learn new, healthy and safe habits to help you reach your goal weight safely,” said Miller. 

Taking part in PT is one way to learn new healthy habits that you can continue long after you have fully recovered

To speak with a Bariatric specialist or to request an appointment, visit or call

Topics: Bariatric Surgery, Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation