Regular physical activity undoubtedly improves health. But, do you need to consider walking daily before going in for surgery? A recent study says those who take more than 7,500 steps every day may cut down on postoperative complications.
Regardless of the complexity of the procedure and comorbidities, researchers say this pattern of daily walking during the preoperative period could cut the risk of complications by around half.
The findings were presented at the American College of Surgeons Clinical Congress 2023 at San Francisco.
After analyzing the health data of 475 participants in the “All of Us Research Program,” researchers examined the link between physical activity and the occurrence of postoperative complications within a 90-day timeframe.
The physical activity was measured using Fitbit — a wearable device that tracks the daily steps, sleep, exercise, and heart rate. The participants were above the age of 57 and underwent a wide range of surgical procedures such as general surgery, orthopedic surgery, and neurosurgery.
Of the participants, 12.6% experienced a complication within 90 days of surgery. The chances of developing complications within 30 days were 45% less when the patients took more than 7,500 steps per day before the surgery in comparison to those who walked less.
“After adjusting for comorbidities, BMI, sex, race, and complexity of the operation, the odds of experiencing a complication were 51% lower (odds ratio 0.49) if patients had Fitbit data showing they had walked more than 7,500 steps per day before surgery,” the researchers said in a news release.
Researchers said their analysis was not restricted to just the days leading up to surgery, but also the physical activity for six months or several years before surgery.
“Fitbits and other wearable devices could potentially be linked to Electronic Health Records (EHRs) and have that data be something that surgeons consider when planning perioperative care for their patients. This could really come to fruition to improve postoperative outcomes,” a lead study author Carson Gehl, a medical student at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee said.
“We used the combination of EHRs and Fitbit data to uncover how to potentially improve surgical outcomes. In our study, we looked at how many steps patients recorded on any given day, which is a proxy for physical activity,” Gehl said.
However, the study has certain limitations, as it was based on Fitbit data that came from a less diverse group of patients. The generalizability of the results was also limited since the participants had to have their own Fitbit device.
Therefore, further research was needed to know if it was possible to reduce the risk of postoperative complications through physical activity in the preoperative period. “We need more studies and evidence to answer that question,” Gehl said.