[Skip to Content]
Wirral University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

Improving your fitness for surgery

Having surgery puts stress on your body.  There are ways that we can help you prepare for this.  Following some simple steps will help to reduce your chance of complications and improve your chances of being healthy and well during and after surgery, as well as your long-term health.

Taking an active role in planning and preparing for your operation will help you feel in control, leave hospital sooner and get back to normal more quickly


Stopping smoking for just 4 weeks reduces your chance of getting a chest infection or wound infection and increases your chances of being able to get home sooner after your operation healthy and well.

We know it isn’t an easy thing to do but there is help available.  Look at the NHS choices website which can be found to the left of this page, or ask your GP or the pre-operative assessment team to refer you today!


Alcohol intake

Drinking alcohol affects your body’s ability to fight infection, stop bleeding and heal wounds/ prevent wound breakdown.  It is therefore very important to cut down or stop drinking before surgery.  Stopping for just 2 weeks pre-operatively will improve your body’s response to surgery.  Stopping for a month will allow time for your heart to recover if drinking 3 or more alcoholic drinks a day. 

If you have ever felt that you should:

  1. Cut down on your drinking
  2. Been annoyed by people criticising your drinking
  3. Felt bad or guilty about your drinking and/or
  4. Had a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or help with a hangover

Please ask for help from the pre-op team or your GP. You can find more information by following the 'Effects of alcohol' link to the left of this page.

Weight management

Being overweight puts stress on all your body’s organs especially your heart.  It increases your chances of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, breathing problems and stroke.  It also increases your chances of having complications after surgery such as blood clots, chest infections and difficulty breathing, wound infections and poor healing.

You can improve your outcome by losing weight, even just a few kilos could make a difference, exercising and maintaining good sugar control if diabetic.

Please see the leaflet linked on the left side of this page for more information.

Physical activity

Adults who exercise are more likely to have health and brain benefits.  Some exercise is better than none, but the recommendations are to be active daily with at least 2 ½ hours of moderate exercise in bouts of 10 minutes of more.  An example of this would be to undertake 30 minutes 5 days a week.

We would advise all patients to start by increasing their current physical activity by 50%.  Think of preparing for your operation like training for a marathon- you need to put the effort in to prepare your body for the stress of surgery.

Following the operation you will need to be out of bed into a chair on day 1.  You will be sore but it is important to get your muscles and circulation going again to minimise complications.  From day 2 you should be walking twenty metres twice a day.  On discharge home you should aim to get back to your usual level of physical activity as soon as possible.

Please see the physical activity guidelines linked on the left of this page. 

Healthy teeth

Healthy teeth are important as your mouth is a source of bacteria and poor dentistry can also affect your diet.  If you have any problems or if it has been a long time since you have seen your dentist please make an appointment to ensure your teeth are in good condition before your operation.  We recommend that you brush your teeth and use a mouthwash twice a day before your admission, throughout your hospital stay, and on discharge home.


Eat healthily in preparation for your operation especially fruit and vegetables.  On the day of your operation you will be given a carbohydrate drink to keep your body fuelled for surgery.  After the operation you may have nutritional supplements in the form of drinks- please take them as they will help your body recover.  Try to drink plenty of fluids and inform the nursing or medical staff if you feel sick as you may need anti-sickness medications or a review by a doctor.  Eat little and often post operatively to try and minimise sickness whilst building up strength.

Cough and deep breathing

A physiotherapist is going to show you some deep breathing exercises.  Please pay attention and practice these 3 times a day before your operation.  Participating in these exercises will reduce the chances of you getting a chest infection.  After your operation you will have physiotherapy.  Please continue your deep breathing and coughing exercises 3 times a day in order to maximise your chances of a quick recovery and discharge home.

After the operation you need to sit up and get out of bed day 1.

Avoiding anastomotic leak (breakdown of the bowel repair)


  • Alcohol
  • Smoking

It is never too late to stop smoking or drinking and doing this will improve your chances of a good surgical outcome.

Eating healthily is also important, especially if you are overweight.