yoga mat, online fitness class, and dumbbells

For those who have bariatric surgery procedures, increasing physical activity post-surgery is an important component of maintaining weight loss. But patients don’t always engage in enough physical activity to receive the full benefits of the surgery.

A study led by Sara Kovacs, assistant professor of instruction in the Department of Kinesiology, examined what factors influence participation in physical activity among people who have had bariatric procedures. The research found the strongest predictors of increased physical activity were an increased “fitness orientation,” a change in social support from friends, and a change in self-reported weight. These findings suggest ways that clinicians can design interventions for before and after bariatric surgery to help ensure long-term success.

“What we aimed to do was take factors associated with physical activity in general populations and see if those relationships still stood in this unique population who'd undergone bariatric surgery,” Kovacs explains.

The findings of the study, which Kovacs performed in conjunction with the University of Pittsburgh, were published in the December 2020 issue of Surgery for Obesity and Related Disease. The study included 82 patients who had undergone bariatric procedures. They provided information on physical activity and selected psychosocial constructs, or influencing factors, before and after their surgery. 

Kovacs, who has a doctorate in exercise physiology, has examined factors connected with physical activity in bariatric patients for many years, with the goal of helping individuals lead healthy lives after these often life-changing operations. 

“What's interesting is that, when I have talked to patients who've undergone bariatric surgery, they absolutely indicate that they've increased their physical activity,” she says. “But sometimes it’s an insufficient amount. There's still additional physical activity that needs to be incorporated into their lifestyle. So we’re looking for interventions that could help, to make sure these procedures are as valuable as they can be, enhance weight loss outcomes, and ultimately improve people’s health.”