7,500 daily steps before surgery can lower risk of complications

The risk of postoperative complications was reduced by half if a patient was getting more than 7,500 steps a day before their operation, finds a US study presented at the American College of Surgeons’ Clinical Congress.

About 30 per cent of patients suffer postoperative complications such as blood clots and wound infections, mostly after they are discharged. The researchers examined the association between physical activity and 90-day postoperative complications in 475 people who wore a Fitbit (a device that measured their daily steps). The average age of the participants was 57 years, and the surgeries they underwent included general surgery, orthopaedic surgery and neurosurgery. About 75 per cent of the participants were women.

About 12.6 per cent of participants had a complication within 90 days of surgery. The odds of experiencing a complication within 30 days of surgery were 45 per cent less if patients took more than 7,500 steps daily prior to surgery, compared with those who took fewer steps.

After adjusting for co-morbidities, BMI, sex, race and complexity of the surgery, the odds of experiencing a complication within 90 days were 51 per cent lower in patients who had taken more than 7,500 steps per day before surgery. “If we find people who are at high risk, using these Fitbit tools, we could monitor them more closely following their procedure because that allows us to catch problems before they progress beyond control,” the study noted. Also, it will help doctors guide patients to modify physical activity in the preoperative period to improve postoperative outcomes.