Prehabilitation, or prehab, is a service that supports you to improve your fitness, health and overall wellbeing before any planned operation.

Most improvements can be achieved through simple lifestyle changes, like increasing physical activity. This gives you the best chance of dealing with the stresses of surgery and recovering well.

Healthy lifestyle

We want you to get the best possible results from your surgery, and you can make positive changes in your lifestyle to help, such as:

  • eating well
  • moving more
  • keeping a healthy mindset

If you have any questions about healthy lifestyle changes, speak to the prehabilitation team, your GP or your surgeon.


Alcohol can have many effects on the body, but importantly it can reduce the liver’s ability to produce the building blocks necessary for healing.

Try to drink within the recommended limits or less, to improve your body’s ability to heal after surgery. Cutting down your alcohol intake will also improve your sleep, energy levels and mood.

NHS UK has useful information on how to reduce alcohol and the benefits. You can also find helpful information on the Drink Aware website.


Stopping smoking is one of the single best things you can do to improve your recovery and your overall health. Quitting or cutting down smoking shortly before your surgery can:

  • reduce your length of stay in the hospital
  • improve wound healing
  • improve lung function

Your GP practice can offer help to reduce or stop smoking, and there may be charities or support groups in your local area. You can find helpful information on the Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) website.

Get active and strong

Training your body for major surgery will ensure you reduce the risk of problems after your operation.

Your heart and lungs have to work harder after an operation to help your body heal. If you’re already active, try to increase your activity before your surgery.

Physical activity is anything that gets your body moving more and causes your heart rate to go up, and can include:

  • walking
  • gardening
  • housework
  • playing with children
  • dancing
  • cycling
  • gym training
  • exercise classes
  • playing a competitive sport, like football

Being more active will help maintain a healthy weight and improve mental health, and reduce the risk of long term conditions, like:

  • stroke
  • diabetes
  • high blood pressure

Strengthening activities that improves strength and balance can also help you in your recovery, and include:

  • climbing stairs
  • carrying shopping
  • lifting weights
  • push-ups
  • sit-ups
  • squats
  • lunges
  • yoga
  • pilates

You should try to do any activity that makes you feel out of breath at least 3 times a week. If you are unsure, speak with your GP or your prehabilitation team to find out which exercise is best for you.

Prehabilitation programme

If you are part of our prehabilitation programme, our team will take you through exercises that are specific to you.

You should aim to do the following movements until your muscles feel tired. Rest briefly and then try to do the same number again. Do 2 or 3 sets of the same movement before you move onto the next:

  • lower body: sit to stand, stair climbing, and squats
  • upper body: carry food shopping, lift water bottles or dumbbells, and push-ups
  • abdomen: tummy twists, and sit-ups

If you are unable to do the recommended amount of physical activity due to a health condition, be as physically active as your ability and health allow:

  • gradually build up activity
  • each exercise will become easier the more you do it, so don’t be disheartened if it’s challenging at first
  • introduce activity into your everyday routine, like taking the stairs instead of a lift
  • be social and get your friends involved, or join a team
  • pick something you

Find useful information and advice on The Centre for Perioperative Care website, and NHS UK.

Healthy eating

You should try to eat a healthy and nutritious diet in the weeks leading up to your surgery. This will help you maintain a stable weight to ensure your body has enough energy to recover and heal after your operation.

You may be referred to our prehabilitation dietitian for individual advice and help. You can also find guidance on NHS UK’s Eat Well guide.


Major surgery is a life-changing event and it’s common to feel anxious, worried and afraid. As well as worries about the surgery itself, uncertainty about the future and concerns about your family can be challenging.

Mindfulness can help you to cope with some of those feelings. It helps you to pay close attention to your mind, body and your surroundings.

There is good evidence that taking control of your own preparation for surgery can reduce anxiety and also speed your recovery. Practicing mindfulness can be helpful in coping with difficult thoughts and feelings during your recovery from surgery

NHS UK has more information about mindfulness and how to be more mindful.

Your hospital stay

We will discuss any changes to your usual medication with you nearer the time of your surgery. We will also review your medicine before you go home and give you a supply of anything you need, including pain relief.

Our nurses and physiotherapists will teach you some exercises, and help you out of bed to walk as soon as possible. This can help:

  • reduce the risk of chest infections
  • maintain your muscle strength
  • improve circulation in your legs, which can reduce the chance of blood clots
  • help your bowels work, so you can poo comfortably
  • overall health and strength

We will send a letter to your GP about your surgery and your hospital stay. We will also give you any information about follow up appointments you need to attend in the coming weeks and months.