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  • Writer's pictureDr. Chung

Fit for Surgery

Advantages of Pre-surgical Fitness

Prior to surgery I was doing strength training or Crossfit style workouts 2-3x/week and 30+ minutes of aerobic exercise 2x/week. For the most part, this has been my exercise routine for the better part of 20 years. That is to say I went into surgery with a reasonably high level of fitness compared to the general population.

Despite that, getting out of bed for the first time and starting to walk around after surgery was slow and cumbersome. The physiologic burdens placed on the body with major surgery are signifiant. It includes large increased demand for oxygen during and post-surgery, stress on the immune and autonomic nervous system, and likely a good deal of catabolism of stored protein to assist in tissue repair to return to homeostasis.

Without a strong confidence in my baseline level of fitness, and the importance of early rehab from my occupation, I could see how most patients would default to the comfort of staying in the hospital bed after surgery. It took work to get up onto my feet and the awkward feeling of walking initially was humbling and made me feel self-conscious.

Nevertheless, I spent 5 minutes walking the floor of the hospital, telling myself that my bowels would move and this NG tube would be gone. With nothing to do in the hospital, I would walk for 5 minutes, chew on some ice, and nap every hour like clockwork.

I noticed that despite most of the rooms on the floor of the hospital taken, there were no other patients moving. The view from the hallway in each of the rooms was a patient in bed with a loved one watching TV as I took my laps around the floor.

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