Lower Your Risk Of Surgery Complications With This Specific Exercise

Whether it's your first surgery or your fifth, having a surgical procedure can be pretty stressful. Some people schedule their surgeries weeks ahead of time, which leaves them feeling anxious as the surgery date approaches. As you prepare for your surgery, the Mayo Clinic suggests staying current with your medications and keeping your scheduled appointments with your doctor. If you're a smoker, try to either reduce your smoking or quit altogether. A healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains will keep your body healthy before your surgery. You should also stay hydrated and get plenty of rest.

Depending on the type of surgery, your doctor might also have you exercise (or keep exercising) in the weeks before your surgery. Even if you've been previously inactive, the National Health Service says you can boost your fitness enough in four weeks to help your body recover more quickly after surgery. In particular, high-intensity interval training can reduce your risk of complications after surgery.

How HIIT can help your body heal

After surgery, your body needs a significant amount of oxygen in order for your tissues to heal and to help reduce inflammation. You're at a higher risk for complications after your surgery if your body doesn't have this oxygen capacity. Because HIIT requires your body to work at 80% of your maximum heart rate for short intervals, it can improve your cardiorespiratory fitness in a short amount of time. This cardiorespiratory fitness can improve your oxygen capacity and help your body heal.

A 2023 meta-analysis in JAMA Network Open looked at the effect of HIIT across 12 research studies involving more than 800 patients. As a whole, HIIT improved patients' cardiorespiratory fitness by measuring either their peak oxygen consumption or a six-minute walk test. Cardiorespiratory fitness improved by 10% when patients did about 160 minutes of HIIT before their surgery. Most of the preoperative HIIT programs were less than four weeks long. The study also found that HIIT could reduce post-surgery complications by 53%. However, the analysis couldn't determine if HIIT was better than other types of exercise at reducing post-surgical complications.

Any exercise can help you post-surgery

The idea of prehabilitation is that you begin the post-operative healing process before the surgery begins. Complications post-surgery can sometimes lead to longer hospital stays, longer recoveries, a decline in physical functioning, and chronic illness, according to a 2022 study in Annals of Surgery. This study involved the effect of a three-week, supervised exercise program on people having elective colorectal surgery. The exercise program included 40 minutes of moderate-to-high-intensity interval training on a stationary bike and 20 minutes of strength training. Compared to a control group that received nutritional counseling and smoking cessation advice, the exercise group had a 50% lower rate of post-surgery complications.

Moderate exercise can also help prepare for esophagogastric surgery, according to a 2018 study in JAMA Surgery. Patients in the prehabilitation program did 30 minutes of moderate exercise such as walking, jogging, or cycling three days a week and 30 minutes of strength training once a week. They also followed a nutrition program based on a dietician's advice. Even though the study didn't find differences in post-surgical complications, the prehabilitation group had better physical functioning after the surgery.