Senior Health

You wouldn’t run a marathon or climb a mountain without training for it. Why then do most of us go into surgery, which is as hard – if not harder – on our bodies, without a single second of preparation?

A couple of studies in 2019 proved that seniors who practice prehabilitation or strengthen physically before surgery benefit greatly. They, first of all, tend to have shorter hospital stays and fewer complications after surgery. They also are generally in good enough shape to recover at home rather than at a rehab facility.

Below are three tips to help your body rebound more quickly:

  1. Walk It Out

After surgery, your doctor will want you to get out of bed as soon as possible to prevent blood clots and muscle atrophy. And before you’ll be allowed to go home, you’ll also have to be able to safely get to the bathroom on your own. Before you go into the hospital, build up your strength and endurance by walking 20 to 30 minutes a day, five days a week as well as doing “sit-to-stand” exercises at least 10 reps a day.

  1. Eat to Heal

The stress of surgery can deplete your body of nutrients that are important for the healing process. You can also start to lose muscle mass in just three days of bedrest (really!). Maintaining a well-balanced diet of veggies, fruits, fiber, and lean protein (augmented by options like carbohydrate drinks, if recommended by your physician) in the week or months before surgery is a great way to exercise prehabilitation: you can build up a good reserve of nutrients to offset this assault on your body. 

  1. Take a Deep Breath

Avoid postsurgical pulmonary complications like pneumonia by practicing deep breathing before you go into the hospital. You can use a spirometer (often hospitals will give you one before your surgery) or practice on your own using “box breathing.” Here’s how to practice this prehabilitation: Breathe in deeply for four seconds, hold it for four, breath out for four and then wait for four seconds before starting the sequence again.


For even more surgery-related tips: