Preparing your body

Patient diet changes

Lifestyle changes

There are many changes you can make to reduce the risks of surgery. Even small changes can make a big difference.

Exercise

Your heart and lungs have to work harder after an operation to help the body to heal. If you are already active, they will be used to this. While you are waiting for your operation, try and increase your activity levels. 

Brisk walking, swimming, cycling, gardening or playing with your children are all helpful. Try to do any activity which makes you feel out of breath at least three times per week, but always check with your doctor first what type of exercise is most appropriate for you. Activities that improve your strength and balance will also be useful for your recovery.

Who can help me?
  • Your GP surgery may be able to refer you to an exercise scheme at your local gym. Some people find a personal trainer helpful.
  • Depending on where you live you may have access to NHS ‘healthtrainers’ who can help motivate you and offer advice. There are also a number of mobile apps to help you set goals and track your progress, such as ‘Active 10 walking tracker’ and ‘Couch to 5K’.
  • Try joining a free council or community walking group or environmental volunteering scheme in your local area such as ‘Walks on Prescription’. As well as giving you encouragement and support to start walking and exercising, they are enjoyable and will boost your mood. Ask your GP surgery what is available in your area. 
  • If you have back or joint pain you will often see a physiotherapist before seeing a consultant. You may be more limited than others, but ask your physiotherapist for exercises that you can do.

These are only some ideas and there will be many health and fitness programmes that you can explore in your local area.

Diet

Your body needs to repair itself after surgery – eating a healthy diet before and after your surgery can really help. 

Who can help me?

Your GP surgery should be able to give you some advice and information on healthy eating. NHS Choices can offer useful help.

Weight

If you are overweight, losing weight can help reduce the stress on your heart and lungs. In addition it can help to:

  • lower your blood pressure
  • improve your blood sugar level
  • reduce pain in your joints 
  • reduce your risk of blood clots after surgery
  • reduce your risk of wound infections after surgery 
  • allow you to exercise more easily. 
Who can help me?

Your GP surgery will be able to weigh you and signpost you to advice on healthy eating, any local weight loss schemes and exercise opportunities in your area. Some councils also have schemes that can support you so it is also worth looking at your local council website or contacting them. 

You may find it helpful to join a weight loss class. In some areas NHS healthtrainers may be available to help you. 

It has been shown that people who improve their lifestyle in the run up to surgery are much more likely to keep up these changes after surgery. This can have a really positive impact on their health in the long term.

Alcohol

Alcohol can have many effects on the body, but importantly it can reduce the liver’s ability to produce the building blocks necessary for healing. Make sure you are drinking within the recommended limits, or lower, to improve your body’s ability to heal after surgery.

Who can help me?

You can find useful information on how to reduce alcohol and the benefits to you on NHS Choices. Also see the drinkaware website.

Smoking

Stopping smoking is hard, but the good news is that quitting or cutting down shortly before surgery can reduce length of stay in hospital, improve wound healing and lung function. Preparing for surgery offers a real opportunity to commit to stopping smoking.

Who can help me?
  • Your GP practice will be able to offer help in reducing or stopping smoking, so ask them about the best options for you.
  • There may be charities or support groups in your local area.
  • Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) is a public health charity that works to reduce the harm caused by smoking. They have helpful advice on quitting.

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Fitter Better Sooner