Exercise Before Surgery Improves Success Rates

Being physically active and performing specific exercises prior to surgery can highly improve the success rate of your surgery and help your recovery be quicker, easier and less painful. This is true for many types of surgeries including knee replacement, hip replacement, shoulder surgery and cesarean section surgery.

One of my clients was scheduled to have total knee replacement surgery at the age of 72. He had endured increasing and severe knee pain for a long time and knew he had to have the surgery well before it was scheduled. He asked me to help him make sure his legs were strong so that he could recover quicker and get back to the physical activities that he enjoyed. After getting approval from his doctor, I put him on an exercise regimen that focused on strengthening his legs while minimizing impact in the knee joint. While strengthening his legs, I made sure we did not ignore the rest of his body; including balance exercises and exercises to strengthen his upper body and core muscles.

His surgery went smooth, with no complications. He soon started physical therapy to rehabilitate his knee. After a few short weeks, his doctor released him to train with me again. Initially, we only did exercises for his upper body and core while he continued physical therapy for his knee. When he was released from physical therapy, I requested a report from the physical therapist to show what exercises he was doing for his knee and the current capabilities of his knee. From there, I slowly progressed his exercises, focusing on strengthening his leg and improving the range of motion in his knee. With this focused program before and after surgery along with his dedication and diligence, he was able to recover more quickly than would have been possible without it. He was happy to be back to the physical activities he enjoyed including gardening, cross country skiing, and hiking in the mountains.

Along with strengthening the muscles, exercise before surgery can assist in weight loss. For people who are overweight or obese, losing weight can have a significant impact on the success of their surgery and recovery. According to Gino M.M.J. Kerkhoffs, MD, PhD, someone who is obese has a much higher risk of infection occurring after surgery, creating the need for a subsequent surgery. If you are in pain, you may think that exercise is the last thing you want to do to help with weight loss. However, in many cases, there are ways of getting sufficient exercise without exacerbating the pain. For example, someone scheduled for shoulder surgery may be able to do exercises involving the lower body and core. Someone about to have ankle or foot surgery can perform exercises for the upper body and core. Another effective approach to weight loss is reducing your caloric intake. If you are unsure how to do this, you can consult with a registered dietitian and follow his or her prescribed meal plan.

In addition to exercise, nutrition is vitally important in preparing an individual for surgery. By adding more fresh fruits and vegetables to your regular diet, you can markedly improve your immune system and your body’s ability to heal. Not only does eating fresh fruits and vegetables help improve your immune system, but it decreases inflammation, supports heart health, and offers many other health benefits.