Exercising with a Temporary Gastric Balloon
Whether you are considering having a temporary gastric balloon or already have a balloon in place, an exercise routine is important for all of us, because it benefits our mental wellbeing and physical health. And, of course, it helps in the management of body weight. The gastric balloon is highly effective for weight loss, because it helps you to feel fuller eating less food, but this is just one part of the solution if you are living with overweight or obesity. Weight management requires ongoing control over how much we eat, whilst maintaining the important habit of staying physically active to keep off the pounds you have lost and preserving your lean body mass (LBM)* Note – this is really important and something Allurion clinic teams help you with.
Read on to learn more about exercising when you have a weight loss balloon.
Exercise is important for all of us, because it benefits our mental wellbeing and physical health – and, of course, it will help you on your weight loss journey. And this doesn’t change if you have had a gastric balloon placed, which simply makes it easier for you to eat smaller meals and to tame your physical hunger – this will make it easier for you to feel in control and decide not to eat that unplanned high calorific snack. Some of you may ask, “How soon after the gastric balloon has been placed can I get back to my exercise classes?” Sooner than you might think. Placement of the Allurion balloon is quick and it doesn’t even require anaesthesia, so you’ll walk away from the clinic pretty much as you went in – plus your 550 ml gastric balloon in situ, of course.
You can get back to your exercise classes, depending on what they are, in a week or two. Some will groan, thinking that having a gastric balloon is a very good reason to not exercise. But it’s not! Getting more active is great for many reasons (read Why is exercise important? below), so embrace it, do it and get the sustained weight loss results you signed up for.
After the gastric balloon has been placed, it’s really important that you drink enough fluids to ensure you’re adequately hydrated at all times. Remember, there’ll now be less space in your stomach, for food and for fluid, so you don’t want to be filling that space only with solid food – taking enough fluid on board is a priority. You will need to transition from a couple of days of sipping clear fluids, up to the point (everyone is different but it might be around one week after placement of the balloon) when you’re ready to start eating a normal diet. You can, however, pick up with doing leisure walking once you feel you’re consistently well hydrated.
“What kind of exercise can I do with this gastric balloon inside of me?”, you ask, nervously. This temporary balloon is designed to partially fill the space in your stomach, which will help you feel satisfied after eating smaller meals and allow you to go about your normal day-to-day activities – which includes doing low-impact exercise, such as walking, swimming, cycling, yoga, circuit training, lifting light weights and using an elliptical machine. Preserving your calorie-burning lean body mass (LBM) will be equally important for your short-term and long-term weight loss goals. The Allurion Program supports you in doing this, with a combination of tailored diet and exercise goals. The combination of getting more physically active and changing what and how we eat leads to 20% greater weight loss than changing eating habits alone.
So, for those who thought that having a gastric balloon was a valid reason to spend more time channel surfing rather than putting effort into elegantly gliding up and down on an elliptical machine … read on, there is much more opportunity for healthy movement.
How soon can I exercise after the insertion of a weight loss balloon?
Placement of the Allurion weight loss balloon is a quick procedure and, unlike other gastric balloons, it doesn’t even require use of an endoscope or anaesthesia, but it’s recommended that you don’t do any strenuous physical activity, such as sports activities, for one to two weeks after it has been placed. You will need time to adjust to a change in your habitual intake of fluids, as well as food – eating less food than you usually do is, of course, the main reason for you having made the decision to have a weight loss balloon.
Ensuring that you’re adequately hydrated, at all times, will be an important consideration when you do eventually resume your pre-placement exercise regimen. We lose fluid via sweat and the breath when we exercise, and losing more fluid than you have consumed would put your body into negative fluid balance, signs and symptoms of which include headache, negative mood and poor concentration. (Ref:1,2) Habits that support wellbeing will be important throughout your weight loss journey and it’s recommended that those good habits start as soon as the weight loss balloon has been placed – this includes drinking enough fluid to stay hydrated.
You’ll transition through three phases before you start consuming a normal diet. In the 24 to 48 hours immediately after placement of the temporary gastric balloon, you’ll be advised to sip clear liquids. Some people start by drinking just a tablespoon of clear liquid every few minutes, and gradually build up to drinking an amount that meets their fluid requirement. In the soft food phase (24 to 48 hours) that follows the clear liquids phase, you’ll introduce other types of liquids and start enjoying foods that require minimal chewing. The introduction of solid food is next, during which time you’ll start eating a normal diet, but consuming a smaller volume of food than you did previously. During this transition stage, management of your fluid requirement will be an important consideration before you start exercising post-placement of the weight loss balloon.
The key thing to remember regarding exercise, is to start with gentle activities, listen to your body and increase duration and intensity of what you do when you feel ready. Going gung-ho before your body is ready, risks injury and setting you back in your goal to get more active. Finally, it’s important for all of us to seek advice from a doctor before starting a strenuous exercise regimen and this, of course, includes people who have a temporary gastric balloon.
Why is exercise important?
Exercise has so many benefits for all of us. Let’s start with the most obvious of these … and a bit of science. Moving our limbs requires muscle contraction, which requires energy – the ‘currency’ used by muscle is called ATP (let’s keep it simple and not spell that out!). Our body converts its fat stores into the ATP ‘currency’. Think of it this way, the more ATP you get your muscles to spend, the greater the amount of fat that needs to be removed from the storage bank.
Our fat stores (around the abdomen, legs and arms) are, of course, what you are targeting when you start out on your weight loss journey. Lose the fat, lose the pounds. And move more muscle to shift more pounds. (When we lose the fat, we lose the pounds. And the more we move our muscles, the more it helps.) An obvious goal for successful weight loss, then, is to put muscle (your muscles) to work as often as you can reasonably fit into your life. Exercise is key in the maintenance of calorie-burning lean body mass (LBM) that is so important for short-term and long-term weight loss. The Allurion Program gives you tailored guidance on diet and exercise for preserving your LBM.
But there is much more to be gained from being physically active, and that includes one of life’s most pleasurable of sedentary activities, which we do before the day even begins: sleep. A poor night’s sleep can affect our desire for food throughout the day that follows. (Ref:3) The level of the ‘hunger’ hormone ghrelin increases, which can spell trouble when faced with temptation after a night of tossing and turning. A gastric balloon is not going to directly affect the ‘hedonic hunger’ we experience when, for example, we see that fabulous dessert sitting there on the table next to ours in the restaurant – there always seems to be a perfectly-shaped space for tiramisu, even though we are not actually physically hungry. Exercise can reduce sleep onset (the time it takes to fall asleep) and decrease the amount of time we lie awake in bed during the night, which helps increase sleep duration and quality. (Ref:4)
Our mental health is affected by many different factors. Life can be highly stressful – the occasional adrenaline rush can be exciting, but too much, and too often, may negatively affect our physical and mental wellbeing. Looking after the psychological aspect of our health is really important on a weight loss journey – there is usually a battle of some kind going on in the mind and this can be mentally exhausting. Exercise is good for our mental health, including anxiety disorders and depression. (Ref:5) (Exercise is good for our mental health, helping to improve our mood and reduce anxiety.) It’s not fully understood how exercise does this, but it’s likely to be a mix of things, such as improved sleep, feeling that one is coping better with life, a change in brain chemistry. But does it actually matter if we don’t quite understand how it helps? Much more importantly, the science supporting the benefit of exercise on mental wellbeing is strong. (In fact, a single workout will immediately increase levels of dopamine and serotonin right after, promoting positive feelings and protecting your brain in the long run against neurodegenerative diseases. (Ref:6)
The gastric balloon gives a great kick-start to weight loss. To keep the journey moving, particularly after the balloon naturally deflates and leaves the body, the new healthier habits learned and adopted throughout that time, will be the key to on-going successful weight loss. The science suggests that changing what we eat and getting more physically active leads to 20% greater weight loss than changing eating habits alone. (Ref:7)
Safe exercises with your temporary gastric balloon
Getting regular exercise is important for each and every one of us – you’ve heard it before: use it or lose it. And this is no less true when you have a temporary gastric balloon. Get your muscles working more to burn more calories, helping your body dig deeper into its fat stores – you’ll see this on the scales as weight loss. Moving your limbs and body keeps muscles toned and prevents it from reducing in size, thereby maintaining calorie-burning tissue that will help you to achieve your goals. The gastric balloon will take you so far (give you a headstart), helping you to eat less, but moving more will take you even further. There (Here) is a wide range of exercises that can be done safely.
Let’s start with the simplest and easiest form of exercise there is: walking. After placement of the gastric balloon, you can start walking as much as you feel able to do once you feel well hydrated.(as long as you are comfortable and feel well-hydrated.)Urine color, volume and frequency can be used as a rough guide to hydration status: a person passing a small amount of dark urine twice a day is certainly underhydrated. All forms of muscle contraction burn calories, and walking is a great way to put our largest muscle group to work. And let’s not disregard leisure walking. Walking briskly will burn more calories, get the heart rate up and help improve fitness, but a stroll during your lunch break also burns calories – do it mindfully, in green spaces, and you’ll experience some of the pleasure that outdoor physical activity can bring.
People who have a gastric balloon can enjoy a wide range of low-impact exercises, which are gentle on the joints. These include walking, swimming, cycling, yoga, circuit training, lifting light weights and using an elliptical machine (mimics running with no impact on the joints). Resistance-type exercise training in conjunction with supplementation of dietary protein has been shown to be effective in preserving high calorie-burning lean body mass (LBM). 8 The Allurion Program supports you in maintaining your LBM by providing tailored guidance on exercise and diet.
A final point on doing safe exercise. It’s important for all of us to seek the advice from a doctor before starting a strenuous exercise regimen and this, of course, includes people who have a temporary gastric balloon.
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1- Water-deprivation headache: a new headache with two variants Headache. 2004 Jan;44(1):79-83
2- Mild Dehydration Affects Mood in Healthy Young Women. The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 142, Issue 2, February 2012, Pages 382–388
3- The impact of sleep deprivation on food desire in the human brain
4- Exercise and sleep. Sleep Medicine Reviews, Vol. 4, No. 4, pp 387–402, 2000
5- Exercise Interventions for Mental Health: A Quantitative and Qualitative Review. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 13(2), 179–193
6- Wendy Suzuki: The brain-changing benefits of exercise | TED Talk
7- Long-term weight loss after diet and exercise: a systematic review. International Journal of Obesity volume 29, pages1168–1174 (2005)
8- A systematic review, meta-analysis and meta-regression of the effect of protein supplementation on resistance training-induced gains in muscle mass and strength in healthy adults. Br J Sports Med. 2018 Mar;52(6):376-384.