UNCG Campus Weekly

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Researchers Partner with Moses Cone to Help Weight-Loss Patients

Post operation, bariatric surgery patients often see success on the scales. But other obstacles may hinder achievement of their long-term goals, including getting adequate and appropriate exercise.

That’s where faculty members from our campus are helping. In a partnership with officials from Wesley Long Community Hospital, researchers with the Helping Other People Exercise (HOPE) program are developing an exercise program designed to assist post-bariatric surgery patients achieve their fitness targets.

“Patients have expressed their dissatisfaction with training in ‘regular’ gyms due to feelings of embarrassment and inability to participate,” said Jeannie Wilson, R.N., bariatric surgery program specialist at Wesley Long Community Hospital, which is part of Moses Cone Health System. “Our patients need an outlet that provides ongoing exercise instruction that is delivered in a safe and compassionate environment.”

Eight clients, ranging from six to 18 months post surgery, are enrolled in the initial phase of the program this fall. Researchers lead them in appropriate exercises at UNCG’s Student Recreation Center, with a focus on cardiovascular exercise and strength training. Moses Cone Health System is providing funding to support a graduate assistant and supplies and materials for the project.

Often, bariatric surgery patients lose weight rapidly after their surgeries, but “exercise is a behavior that’s difficult for them to adopt,” said Dr. Cody Sipe, an assistant professor of kinesiology in the UNCG School of Health and Human Performance.

He points to a number of reasons, including lingering body image issues and other concerns about their size. “Gyms have lots of mirrors and there are lots of people around,” he explained. “They may not be able to fit onto the machines.”

The new partnership also has a strong research component. “People realize exercise is very good for people recovering from bariatric surgery. Few people have researched to see if certain types of exercise work better than others,” said Dr. Paul Davis, an associate professor of kinesiology who is also working with the project.

“We want to know that exercise is going to help people maintain the weight loss that they achieve through the surgery itself,” he continued. “When most people go through the surgery, their weight loss peaks one to two years after surgery. Then many start to regain some of the weight. Some people may even gain as much as almost half of it back. We want to see if exercise helps maintain the weight loss associated with their surgery and maintain diabetes reversal, lowering of blood pressure and reversal of other health problems related to obesity.”

The first phase of research, which will focus on patients’ attitudes toward exercise and the potential psychological benefits they’ll obtain through the exercise program, begins in January, Davis said.

The long-term goal for the program is to include patients before they have surgery and expand to include overweight and obese populations that either do not qualify for or do not want the surgery.

“What we see nationally is that there aren’t very many bariatric surgery programs that include an exercise component, especially with a university,” Sipe said. “Were trying to take it to another level.”