Physical activity and functional ability increase after weight loss surgery

Posted by ap507 at May 12, 2016 11:02 AM |
University of Leicester researchers lead study into bariatric surgery

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 12 May 2016

People who have their stomach size surgically reduced move around more and easier after weight loss surgery, a study has found.

Patients are able to walk further and are more physically active in the first year following the procedure, according to the research.

Although patients have an increased step count (they walk further), the intensity of the exertion is lower in the early stages after surgery, the paper published in the Obesity Reviews journal has shown.

Bariatric surgery is used to facilitate weight loss in people with potentially life-threatening obesity (body mass index >35), when other treatments, such as lifestyle changes, have not worked. Adults diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes may be considered for an assessment for weight loss surgery at a lower  BMI level of 30 or more. 

Weight loss surgery has proven to be effective in significantly and quickly reducing excess body fat. Now NIHR-funded researchers have looked at the impact the surgery has on physical activity and physical function both before and after surgery by examining 50 published studies.

The research was carried out by the NIHR Leicester-Loughborough Diet, Lifestyle and Physical Activity BRU.

Professor Melanie Davies CBE, who is the Director of the research centre as well as a Professor of Diabetes Medicine at the University of Leicester, said: “We found evidence demonstrating that objective and self-reported physical activity improved by 12 months after bariatric surgery.

“A decrease in objectively measured moderate to vigorous activity and an increase in step count at three to six months indicated a shift towards a greater amount of lower intensity physical activity within the first six months after surgery. Walking, musculoskeletal and self-reported physical function all improved by 12 months.”

But fellow researcher Dr Louisa Herring said larger trials were necessary to further understand the effects of physical activity on post-surgical outcomes.

She said: “Although physical activity performed after bariatric surgery was associated with better weight loss outcomes, there is limited information on patients’ physical activity behaviour in this context.

“No relationship was identified between changes in weight and walking performance post-surgery. More studies assessing physical activity, physical function and weight loss would help understand the role of physical activity in optimising post-operative weight and functional outcomes.”

Consultant bariatric surgeons Professor David Bowrey and Mr Chris Sutton echoed the views of their fellow researchers and suggested that “the next step was to assess whether aerobic and/or resistance activity after surgery would affect longterm outcomes, and result in improved weight loss”.

BRUs are focused on translational clinical research, taking new ideas from the laboratory bench to the patient’s bedside to improve health. The Leicester and the Leicester-Loughborough BRU is a national centre of excellence in diet, lifestyle and physical activity. It harnesses the power of experimental science to explore and develop ways to help prevent and treat chronic disease.

The paper is called ‘Changes in physical activity behaviour and physical function after bariatric surgery: a systematic review and meta-analysis’. For more information, visit

Notes to editors: 

  • For further details, to arrange an interview or more photographs, email or call 07803 003811 or 01604 882342
  • The NIHR Leicester-Loughborough Diet, Lifestyle and Physical Activity Biomedical Research Unit (BRU) is funded by the NIHR. By harnessing the power of experimental science we will explore and develop innovative lifestyle interventions to help prevent and treat chronic disease for the benefit of all. The BRUs undertake translational clinical research in priority areas of high disease burden and clinical need.
  • The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is funded by the Department of Health to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research. Since its establishment in April 2006, the NIHR has transformed research in the NHS. It has increased the volume of applied health research for the benefit of patients and the public, driven faster translation of basic science discoveries into tangible benefits for patients and the economy, and developed and supported the people who conduct and contribute to applied health research. The NIHR plays a key role in the Government’s strategy for economic growth, attracting investment by the life-sciences industries through its world-class infrastructure for health research. Together, the NIHR people, programmes, centres of excellence and systems represent the most integrated health research system in the world. For further information, visit
  • The Leicester Diabetes Centre is an international centre of excellence in diabetes research, education and innovation and is led by Professor Melanie Davies and Professor Kamlesh Khunti. Hosted at Leicester General Hospital, the Leicester Diabetes Centre is a partnership between the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust and the University of Leicester, working with the city and county Clinical Commissioning Groups. It is a leading applied health research unit committed to improving the lives and care of people with diabetes and other long-term conditions.
  • For more information about the Leicester Diabetes Centre, visit


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