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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Effects of preoperative exercise on complications and recovery

The December 2006 issue of Beyond Change, a newsletter focusing on obesity and obesity surgery, features an article proving what I've been touting for the last two years: Exercising before surgery vastly improves recovery time and decreases surgical complications.

If you want to read the article, click on the above link or here.

Before I had gastric-bypass surgery, I had heard rumors about the benefits of exercise when it came to recovery. I paid close attention to post-ops experiences and noticed that those who had a regular exercise program before surgery had fewer complaints about their surgical experience.

WLS was my first major surgery, and I was terrified about having my planned lap procedure being converted to open or suffering from wound infections. A doctor at the time told me that one thing obese people could do to prevent such occurrences is to increase bloodflow to the abdomen. Her opinion was that the more blood that flowed to the area, the faster wounds would heal. She also thought strong abdominal muscles healed from the trauma of surgery faster than undeveloped ones.

I had been exercising regularly for months before having WLS, but four weeks before my surgery date, I kicked things into high gear by hiring a personal trainer. We focused on building up my muscle mass (to mitigate the amount I would lose while recovering) and toning my core. At my first session, I did 25 crunches on a stability ball. By the time the month was up, I was doing 300 crunches a day on the floor -- and I weighed 310 pounds.

Surgery was a breeze for me. I'm not saying it was painless, but it wasn't as painful as I expected. I was walking laps in the ICU so well that I pushed for transfer because watching me made the other bariatric post-ops feel bad. I had no trouble adjusting myself in bed. And once I figured out how to negotiate the IV lines, I stopped needing assistance to get out of bed.

A week after my release, I was back in the gym. I wasn't insane. I started doing five minutes on the treadmill (the gym was across the street from my apartment) and worked my way up slowly to 30 minutes in two weeks.

A lot of post-ops I've met try to say my age is what made my recovery so easy. That's hogwash. One of my best post-op friends had a similar experience and she's 50. But she also hired a personal trainer before surgery, and she credits that investment for her easy recovery just as I do.


Dagny said...

That's REALLY good advice Tonya! I think exercise also helps you to feel more engaged and invested in the whole process. Get started early!

I am feeling so super-charged by my workouts now with my trainer, I can't even describe how much I love it!

Donna said...

I really believe this 100%. I exercised pre-op and I know that it paid off. Post-op, I couldn't wait to get back to it.

I will say that I have a theory about post-op and working out: We can only eat so much to fuel our bodies and if we workout hard (which I have tendancy to do) our bodies stay in starvation mode longer than others might. Eventually the weight comes off, because I see big drops all of a sudden, but I seem I suffer more plateaus than most.

Great information. Thanks for sharing!

Tonya said...

Post-ops who exercise do tend to drop weight in bigger chunks than non-exercisers, but I think that's because exercise helps us increase our metabolism out of "starvation mode."

My weight loss trend was to drop 10 pounds over two days, 5 more over the course of the week and then nothing for three weeks before doing it again. Eventually, I just accepted that's what my body would do...and I made sure to keep a pair of pants on hand a size smaller than I was wearing. I learned my lesson after three months of waking up one day to find all of my pants falling off and having nothing to wear to work. A nice problem to have, but it lost its charm after a while.