After surgery, your body needs a significant amount of oxygen in order for your tissues to heal and to help reduce inflammation. You’re at a higher risk for complications after your surgery if your body doesn’t have this oxygen capacity. Because HIIT requires your body to work at 80% of your maximum heart rate for short intervals, it can improve your cardiorespiratory fitness in a short amount of time. This cardiorespiratory fitness can improve your oxygen capacity and help your body heal.
A 2023 meta-analysis in JAMA Network Open looked at the effect of HIIT across 12 research studies involving more than 800 patients. As a whole, HIIT improved patients’ cardiorespiratory fitness by measuring either their peak oxygen consumption or a six-minute walk test. Cardiorespiratory fitness improved by 10% when patients did about 160 minutes of HIIT before their surgery. Most of the preoperative HIIT programs were less than four weeks long. The study also found that HIIT could reduce post-surgery complications by 53%. However, the analysis couldn’t determine if HIIT was better than other types of exercise at reducing post-surgical complications.