Is preoperative physical activity related to post-surgery recovery?—a cohort study of colorectal cancer patients



An increasing interest is seen in the role of preoperative physical activity (PA) in enhancing postoperative recovery. The short-term effect of preoperative PA on recovery after colorectal cancer is unknown. The aim of this study was to evaluate the association of the preoperative level of PA with postoperative recovery after surgery due to colorectal cancer disease.


This is a prospective observational cohort study, with 115 patients scheduled to undergo elective colorectal surgery. The self-reported level of preoperative PA was compared to measures of recovery.


Regular self-reported preoperative PA was associated with a higher chance of feeling highly physically recovered 3 weeks after surgery (relative chance 3.3, p = 0.038), compared to physical inactivity. No statistically significant associations were seen with length of hospital stay, self-assessed mental recovery, re-admittances or with re-operations.


In clinical practice, evaluating the patients’ level of PA is feasible and may potentially be used as a prognostic tool for patients undergoing colorectal cancer surgery. Given the study design, the results from this study cannot prove causality.


The present study found that the preoperative level of PA was associated with a faster self-assessed physical recovery after colorectal cancer surgery. PA did not show any associations with the primary outcome measure length of hospital stay or any of the other secondary outcome measures. Assessment of PA level preoperatively could be used for prognostic reasons. If systematic preoperative/postoperative physical training will enhance recovery, this remains to be studied in a randomized controlled study.


  • We examined preoperative physical activity and the recovery after colorectal cancer surgery.

  • Physically active individuals had faster self-assessed physical recovery.

  • Assessment of preoperative physical activity may provide prognostic clinical information.

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Aron Onerup.

Ethics declarations

The study was approved by the Regional Ethical Board in Göteborg, Dnr 180–12. The protocol was registered at, NCT01707121.

Conflict of interest statement

No conflicts of interest reported. The study was funded through grants from the ALF agreement at Sahlgrenska University Hospital, the Swedish Cancer Society, VGRFOU grants in Västra Götaland Region, Tornspiran and Mary von Sydow’s Foundation.

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Onerup, A., Bock, D., Börjesson, M. et al. Is preoperative physical activity related to post-surgery recovery?—a cohort study of colorectal cancer patients. Int J Colorectal Dis 31, 1131–1140 (2016).

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  • Physical activity
  • Preoperative
  • Recovery
  • Surgery
  • Colorectal cancer