Practicing physical activity following weight-loss surgery: The significance of joy, satisfaction and well-being
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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While health care professionals advise those who have undergone weight loss surgery (WLS) to increase their levels of physical activity, research suggests that often this is not achieved. This paper explores the experiences of ten Norwegian women as they engaged in physical activity several years after weight loss surgery (WLS). In contrast to the existing literature, which explores physical activity post-WLS largely in terms of quantitative data and measurable outcomes, the present study sought to explore women’s lived experiences of physical activity, including the meanings they ascribed to different forms of activity and how such meanings changed over time. The research participants, all of whom had undergone WLS more than five years earlier, described (during individual interviews) the meanings they attached to becoming physically active, as well as the different activities and movement practices they engaged in, from interval training to mountain hiking and yoga. For all the women, maintaining and increasing their level of physical activity was challenging. On the one hand, engaging in exercise after weight loss improved their sense of joy and well-being and expanded their opportunities to move and act. On the other hand, during physical activity they needed to be constantly alert to symptoms of post-surgical side-effects, including variable energy levels, digestive problems and acute illness episodes. As the women explored their new capacities, it seemed to be important for them to explore various forms of physical activity in order to find the form of exercise which best suited them or which they most enjoyed. In some cases, they constructed new meanings around activities which, prior to surgery, had seemed onerous and bereft of pleasure. We argue that such insights will benefit health professionals who provide advice on physical activity at different post-surgical stages, sometimes to persons seriously concerned about regaining weight.