4 Ways to Recover Faster After Surgery
The last thing you might want to do before a trip to the hospital is hit the gym, but go anyway. A study in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism found that patients who underwent knee or hip replacements were more mobile three days after surgery if they'd been physically active in the six weeks before. In fact, they were 73 percent less likely to need any inpatient rehab at all. Their regimen: Patients exercised for 30 to 60 minutes three times a week, starting with no-impact exercises in a pool, then working up to a stationary bike or an elliptical machine coupled with strength training and stretching.
Eat More Protein
A basic building block for muscles and other tissue, protein is crucial during the prep phase. In Carli's study, patients took a daily whey protein supplement. "It's best to take it soon after a workout," he says. "We know from sports medicine that if you consume 10 to 20 grams of protein within two hours of exercising, you will build lean muscle mass." That increased muscle may be one reason Carli's prehab group walked farther postsurgery.
If you light up regularly, you could be wreaking havoc on your recovery, delaying the healing process and increasing the risk of complications. But quitting—even just a month before surgery—can help. One 2011 report revealed that smokers who quit at least four weeks before their operation reduced their risk of respiratory problems by 23 percent.
Develop a Stress Reduction Routine
"Some people are in denial about how much even a small operation can affect their mood," says Carli. "Patients who are anxious or depressed often report greater pain after surgery and are more likely to experience complications." In his study, subjects met with a psychologist to learn deep breathing and guided visualization strategies, which they continued at home two or three times a week. "You can't separate the body and mind," says Carli. "Tending to your psychological health is as important as the physical prep."