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— BY MICHAEL ROIZEN, M.D., AND MEHMET OZ, M.D.

Q: I’m going to have hip replacement surgery next month, and my doctor says I should exercise for a better recovery. How am I supposed to do that when I can barely take the stairs? -- Cheryl W., Austin, Texas

A: Good question. Smart doctor. Study after study has shown that exercise before surgery reduces complication rates, shortens hospital stays, eases post-op pain and improves recovery times.

The best approach: Physical therapy.

Have your primary doc or orthopedic surgeon write you a prescription for PT. The therapist will check your current range of motion, strength and flexibility, and give you exercises that will make noticeable improvements where needed (including leg, arm and core strength). You may discover that you can pedal a bike for 20 minutes when it’s difficult to walk down the street! These workouts will also reduce pre-operative pain and anxiety.

If, for any reason, you cannot get to a physical therapist, you can still get the exercise you need to improve your surgical outcome.

A 2016 study from the University of Michigan showed that one “home-based, pre-operative training program decreased hospital duration of stay, lowered costs of care and was well accepted by patients.” So ask your docs to recommend a video or audio program or to design a workout for you to do at home.

In addition to working out, making upgrades to your lifestyle habits can improve your outcome. The American College of Surgeons has implemented the Strong for Surgery (S4S) program, which focuses on helping with smoking cessation and improving nutrition for people with Type 2 diabetes so they attain better glucose control.

The result: Reduction of postoperative complications and improved healing and postoperative recovery.

So, Cheryl, anything you can do to improve your health pre-surgery will make your recovery post-surgery better and easier. And the benefits are not limited to orthopedic operations, they apply to a whole range of surgeries, even some cancer surgeries.

Q: Every year about this time I head back to the gym, and every year about this time I get sick. Then I can’t -- and don’t want to -- go back to the gym. I need to be working out, so what’s your best advice? -- Greg C., Allentown, Pennsylvania

A: Not an uncommon problem, Greg, and more than a few companies capitalize on it by selling their gym-quality products for use in homes. However, instead of turning your living room into a gym, there are several things you can do at your gym.

  1. Wipe down your equipment with an alcohol-based cleaner before and after you use it. Most good-quality gyms have folks who wipe down equipment on a regular basis, but take this extra measure to be safe.

  2. Keep your hands clean. Most gyms have hand sanitizers accessible. Any shared gym equipment, from bike handlebars to treadmill keypads (don’t forget the keypads!), free weights and weight machines, can harbor germs.

  3. Get your flu shot. Even if it doesn’t guard against the common cold it will bolster your immune system.

  4. Make sure any cuts or scrapes you have are 100 percent covered.

  5. Take a fresh towel from home with you to sit on if you’re doing floor exercises or on machine seats. And bring your own yoga mat. Gym-issued yoga mats can harbor lots of unhealthy microbes.

  6. If you shower at the gym make sure you have your own shower slippers/flip-flops, and have another fresh-from-home towel to use.

  7. All your workout clothes go into the washing machine when you get home.

These precautions will protect you from most of the flu and cold viruses (staph, strep, etc.) and fungus that commonly travel through gyms in the winter.

Lastly, if you do get sick, stay away from the gym for a while. People get sick from the gym because infected people go to the gym. Just like school or work, if you can stay home, just do it.

•••

(Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D. is chief wellness officer and chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Email your questions to Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen at youdocsdaily(at sign)sharecare.com. Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.)

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