Getting in shape before surgery to aid the recovery of older patients: study

December 21, 2020, 10:42 am IS

Washington [US]December 21st (ANI): Older adults planning to undergo elective surgery should undertake a sustained program of targeted exercise beforehand to counter the muscle-debilitating effects of bed rest.
A study published by researchers at the University of Birmingham’s School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences showed that short-term pre-rehabilitation strength exercises performed before surgery were not enough to prevent muscle wasting.
In the study, researchers asked a group of older adults to do four weightlifting sessions over a week. Participants only did the exercises with one leg while the other leg did no exercise at all.
After completing the prehabilitation, the participants were rested for five days – a typical length of hospital stay for an elderly patient.
Although the researchers expected that the leg that had been subjected to the exercise would experience less muscle loss than the other leg, they actually found that the muscle loss in both legs was roughly the same.
The team’s detailed analysis found that while short-term exercise pretreatment improved the body’s muscle building process, muscle wasting in the thighs was around 3 to 4 percent in both legs – roughly what older adults would normally lose over 3 to 5 years of aging .
The researchers recommend that one approach to protecting older muscles from muscle wasting during hospitalization is to do longer-term strength exercises before rehabilitation.

“While short-term prehabilitation offers an inexpensive and easy-to-implement strategy, it does not prevent muscle wasting in older adults who are undergoing bed rest,” said Dr. Leigh Breen, the study’s lead author.
“This muscle loss can be extremely difficult to heal and lead to long-term health and disease complications,” added Breen.
The team recommends that in addition to strength training, prehabilitation exercise should include aerobic exercise to protect cardiovascular health and a high-protein diet to increase muscle mass to effectively offset muscle loss during bed rest
They also recommend that elderly patients in the hospital, where appropriate and safe, should try to get back on their feet and be mobile again as soon as possible.
Post-op exercise and nutritional strategies will also be important to ensure return to full health and reduce the risk of future health complications.
Dr. Benoit Smeuninx, now at Monash University in Australia, is the lead author of the paper.
“Our study underscores the need for more research on the benefits of longer-term pre-surgery exercise programs. Just as an athlete would exercise before a race or competition, pre-hospital training should be of great benefit to older adults in elective surgery,” he said.
The work was completed in collaboration with colleagues from the Medical Research Council Against Arthritis Center for Musculoskeletal Aging Research, a partnership between the University of Birmingham and the University of Nottingham.
The work was funded by the Research Council for Biotechnology and Life Sciences. (ANI)