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16 Jun 2022

Patients benefit from resistance training just two weeks after heart surgery
BY Tom Walker

The Swinburn study was based on a 12-week resistance training programme

The Swinburn study was based on a 12-week resistance training programme
photo: Shutterstock/Halfpoint

Post-operative heart surgery patients could begin their road to fitness recovery much earlier than previously thought.

Game-changing research shows that upper-body resistance training can commence – and be beneficial – just two weeks after an operation. 

For post-op heart surgery patients, exercise is typically limited to light-level activity for twelve weeks, as they recover from operations that have taken up to four hours to complete.

However, a study by Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia, showed that patients who undertake early resistance training recover quicker – within three months after surgery.

The results were based on a 12-week resistance training programme which included patients using both limbs simultaneously.

Exercise physiologist Jacqueline Pengelly, the study's author, said: "Patients are often told to avoid or limit the use of their arms and undertake walking, meaning they’re unable to perform or resume their daily or recreational activities, which can be a cause of frustration and feelings of loss of identity.

“However, patients in the resistance training programme reported feeling stronger and were motivated to keep trying to increase their workload.

"Because they were supervised, and their safety and recovery monitored, they gained the knowledge and confidence needed to recommence the activities they enjoy safer and earlier than minimal activity rehab programmes. 

Pengelly now wants to conduct a larger study with more surgery and resistance training intervention sites using a range of resistance equipment.  

“This would mean that resistance training is more accessible to patients and give exercise physiologists and physiotherapists the confidence to replicate the training within their own cardiac rehabilitation programmes. 

“Exercise is medicine – exercise physiologists need to carefully select outcome measures that are appropriate to the patient’s ability and use this information to prescribe exercises and exercise intensities that are appropriate. It’s time for change, so let’s get moving,” said Pengelly. 

To read more about the study, click here.



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