Strength training before surgery isn’t a new concept, most surgeons for hip or knee replacements will advise a 6 week plan before surgery to help with the recovery. So why should we ignore this advice for a hysterectomy?
A hysterectomy can be very debilitating for the first 6 weeks after surgery. Your stomach muscles are employed for most types of movement, so without them supporting our movement can be restricted, therefore it’s paramount that you train your arms and legs to take on the extra burden during those first few weeks. Strength training is great for this type of pre-surgical exercise.
Studies have shown that pre-surgery workouts, that include strength training, aerobic and flexibility training, can significantly reduce the patient’s recovery time.
One study1 has shown that a participant’s chances of needing in-patient rehabilitation decreased by an incredible 73% after pre-surgery workouts were included.
Studies2 consistently show that the fitter you are pre surgery, the less likely you are to have complications and infections after surgery. So your recovery plan should begin well before surgery.
Ideally siz weeks prior to your surgery you should be implementing a healthier lifestyle through exercise and diet.
If you are a gym regular, look at reintroducing yourself to the weights section; squats and lunges with dumbbell weights, kettle bell squats and swings should now become your best friend. Aim to weight train three days per week, with cardio being your focus for the other days.
If you’re new to these exercises, keep the weight size low, perhaps start at 2kgs and build up or just try the squats and lunges without weights. Increase the repetitions to make sure you are working your muscles hard enough, for example 3 sets of 10 repetitions.
Back exercises are also really important to include now, a lot of ladies struggle with back pain in the first months post surgery, and this is usually due to stooping and lack of core engagement. If your back is strong before surgery it will pick up the slack from the lack of stomach muscle activation.
Again, the kettle bell swing can assist with this, start with a low weight and build up. This will also help build strong muscles over your shoulders and tops of your arms, you will be thankful for these muscles when manoeuvring your body out of bed in those first few weeks.
We don’t all have gym memberships or access to weights, there are plenty of YouTube videos that you can follow offering you a workout for as little as 10 minutes of your time.
Remember to always seek guidance from an instructor and check with a health professional before starting a new exercise regime.
Once you have mastered a good strong squat and lunge, start to implement these techniques in how you move around at home. When picking something up from the floor, use the squat movement, when moving something, use the lunge movement. By introducing these movements naturally into your everyday tasks, you will find they naturally work for you post surgery.
Your surgery may involve a horizontal or vertical incision, so now is the time to get you abdominal muscles strong, try to include in your new training program a 10 minute abs workout a couple of times a week.
Remember, your stomach muscles are not cut during surgery, just moved out of the way, it’s the body’s fascia that is cut. (The fascia is a very strong connective tissue just below the skin). This can take months to heal, so having strong muscles below the fascia is extremely beneficial to your ability to move around and support yourself.
Having strong abdominal muscles prior to surgery will ensure they are working for you post surgery. The stronger the muscles are deep within your core the better they will be at supporting your body while the fascia is healing.
Supplements to consider after surgery are BCAA’s (branch chain amino acids). Studies have shown3 that these three amino acids (leucine, valine and isoleucine) are essential for structural repair within our muscles, there is a reason weightlifters take these supplements. There are studies3 taking place now that are starting to show that these repair power houses have a real impact on how a patient recovers and how fast mobility is restored post surgery.
If you don’t feel like taking these as a tablet, a protein shake will also be beneficial.
Your diet is incredibly important and shouldn’t be overlooked, cutting out inflammatory foods can lower your pain levels and how your body responds to the surgery. The meal you eat the day before surgery should also be taken into consideration, l suggest a 60/40 split of protein/carbs, similar to what an athlete would eat before an event, for example, a spaghetti bolognese. This ensures your body has all its glycogen stores topped up and to supply you with energy when your body needs it the most. The protein will support your body during the repair stage of your recovery.
Life can get in the way, and we all have commitments with work and family, but if you can do one thing, then it should be walking, a 20-minute power walk each day for the 6 weeks building up to your operation will make a difference to how you recover.
If quitting smoking before a major operation has proven to reducing recovery time, imagine what a difference introducing some exercise will make to your recovery.
Keep your body strong, train hard and your body will reward you. Good Luck!
Lyndsay Turner recently had a sub total hysterectomy due to multiple fibroids and severe stage 4 endometriosis. She is a qualified level 2 fitness instructor, and currently studying towards a degree in Sports Science. She enjoys taking part in Triathlons and Duathlons. Her passion is weight lifting, and she’s always looking to achieve a new personal best.