Prehabilitation to Get Fit Before Surgery

Surgery allows doctors to repair or replace human tissue to maintain or restore its function. There are many different fields of surgery, including orthopaedic (bone, muscle and tendon surgery), cardiothoracic (heart and lungs) and general surgery (includes many others including abdominal and breast surgery).


Surgery comes with certain risks. Some of these risks are inherent to the surgery itself and some are associated with the anaesthetic and the prolonged hospital stay. The aim of exercise training before a surgery, called pre-habilitation, is to increase a person’s physical fitness and strength to maximise the speed of recovery after the operation and reduce the risk of any complications.

Why should I exercise before my surgery?

There have been many studies assessing the benefits of exercise in the lead-up to surgery. The main types of surgery where pre-habilitation has a well-established benefit include:
• Abdominal surgery – Studies have shown that exercise training before abdominal surgery can speed-up recovery, reduce number of days in hospital and reduce the risk of post-operative complications. In fact, one study has reported a 51% reduction in post-operative complication rate for a high-risk group.
• Cardiac surgery – It has been shown that improving physical fitness before cardiac surgery can improve the outcome of operations including bypass and valve surgery. Patients who did prehab had reduced hospital stay, reduced complication rate, improved recovery rate and improved post-operative quality of life. Any exercise performed prior to cardiac surgery must be performed under supervision and be prescribed by an exercise physiologist together with the consultation of the specialist.
• Orthopaedic surgery – Specific exercise interventions that focus on range of motion and strength of a joint prior to surgery can increase the speed of recovery following surgery. For example, patients undergoing knee reconstruction (anterior cruciate ligament) or total-knee replacement who complete a pre-habilitation program of exercises before surgery have faster recovery and improved post-operative function.

What type of exercise should I be doing before my surgery?

That depends on the type of surgery you are having, as well as your current level of activity and other medical conditions you may have, however there are some general guidelines:
• Aerobic exercise – Improves the fitness of your cardiovascular system and reduces the risks associated with anaesthetic and prolonged hospital stays.
• Resistance training (strength training) – Addresses any strength deficits and improves the health of the muscular system.
• Joint range of motion – Specifically prior to orthopaedic surgery, the focus should be on restoring joint range of motion and normalising movement patterns.

We recommend you consult with one of our exercise physiologists to discuss the specific exercise prescription that will be best for you prior to surgery.

If you would like to ask a question about our pre-habilitation programs or anything else, visit our Contact Us page to get in touch.

If you are ready to make an appointment, visit our make a booking page and get started today.

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For more, visit our Frequently Asked Questions page.

If you would like to ask a question about our services or anything else, visit our Contact Us page to get in touch.

If you are ready to make an appointment, visit our make a booking page and let us help you with your fitness or recovery.

Please note that the information we provide on web pages like this one are for general information and educational purposes. We recommend speaking to a qualified physiotherapist or exercise physiologist to assess your individual situation.