Skip to content

Cancer – Reduces post-operative complications

Reduces post-operative complications

Evidence summary

In patients with lung cancer, significantly fewer post-operative complications were reported from 2 meta-analyses of studies looking at pre-operative exercise interventions (4-5). A matched pair analysis study in gastric cancer patients with a high BMI found a pre-operative exercise programme reduced post-operative complications such as bleeding, pneumonia and post-surgical abdominal complications (7). In one prospective study, the patient group with the highest level of self-assessed physical activity required significantly less time off work compared to the group with physical activity levels of only 1-2 times per week (6).

Quality of evidence

Moderate quality – studies are heterogenous with regards to the design of prehabilitation programmes, risk of bias and small sample sizes. Further, large RCTs are recommended.

Strength of recommendation

Weak – on the basis of existing evidence and expert clinical opinion, some cancer patients may be expected to have fewer post-operative complications with pre-surgical physical activity


Preoperative exercise is safe and its benefits in reducing postoperative complications are promising and warrant further investigation.


4.Cavalheri V et al. Preoperative exercise training for patients with non-small cell lung cancer. Cochrane Database Syst Rev.2017 Jun 7;6:CD012020

5.Garcia R et al. Functional and postoperative outcomes after preoperative exercise training in patients with lung cancer: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Interact Cardiovasc Thorac Surg.2016 Sep;23(3):486-97

6.Angenete E et al. Physical activity before radical prostatectomy reduces sick leave after surgery – results from a prospective, non-randomized controlled clinical trial (LAPPRO). BMC Urol. 2016; 16: 50

7.Cho H et al. Matched pair analysis to examine the effects of a planned preoperative exercise program in early gastric cancer patients with metabolic syndrome to reduce operative risk: the Adjuvant Exercise for General Elective Surgery (AEGES) study group. Ann Surg Oncol. 2014 21(6):2044-50