Warning. The following is not an anti-lockdown story! According to scientists and health experts lockdowns (and masks and vaccines) play a critical role in the management of the pandemic we are currently experiencing. This story does, however, highlight some of the potential health consequences of the lockdown when used as a tool to protect our communities well-being. Effectively, it tells us that sitting on your lazy arse on a coach and shoving tons of unhealthy food into your gob while in isolation is probably not a good idea. Exercise during lockdown is permitted! Doing exercise with a companion is also allowed. Do both! For your physical and mental health’s sake!
Is pre-operative isolation a good idea?
To reinforce the point, here is a bit of recent research that might be of interest.
When you’re about to have a bit of elective surgery done, the last thing you want is to come down with a bout of Covid19 while you are recovering. Not surprisingly, many surgeons (from various health systems throughout the world) have recommended patients go into isolation for a few days prior to their op to reduce the risk of Covid infection and, hopefully, minimise the risk of nasty post-operative lung and heart complications. Sounds sensible doesn’t it? According to a study by University of Birmingham Global Health Research Unit (United Kingdom) taking a bit of isolation time-out before going under the knife may not be such a good idea. Their study into the outcomes for 96,000 patients across 114 countries (27,000 of which took the isolation option) indicated that the patients who did not isolate experienced significantly better outcomes than the those who isolated.
The study showed that patients who isolated for a period of three days before their surgery had a 20% greater chance of ending up with a post-op lung complication than the patients who did not isolate. The study also showed that the longer the patient isolated, the more likely that they would have an unwanted outcome! People who isolated between 4 and 7 days were 25% more likely to end up with pulmonary problems… while those who isolated for 8 days or longer had a worse than 31% increased risk. Ouch! What the hell? What is going on?
“Patients reduce their physical activity”
While the authors of the study cannot say with any degree of certainty why outcomes appear to be worse for patients who, it seems, were taking sensible precautions, one of the study co-leaders, Dr Aneel Bhangu suggested “Isolation may mean that patients reduce their physical activity, have worse nutritional habits and suffer higher levels of anxiety and depression… these effects (in already vulnerable patients) may have contributed to an increased risk of pulmonary complications.”
The good doctor isn’t for a moment suggesting that pre-op patients should ignore health warnings to isolate (especially in areas where covid is running wild and lockdowns have been mandated) because a patient going under the knife who does have a Covid19 infection is under significantly increased risk of a serious post-operative complication. However, neither should the potential consequences of extended isolation be ignored.
Right now, given that most of us are in lockdown, it’s unlikely that many of us will be toddling off to the operating theatre for a bit of nip and tuck any time soon, but it seems to me that the UK study makes a point that we could all take note of. While necessary under certain circumstances, isolation can lead to unwanted health outcomes. At minimum, it can be bad for your lungs, bad for your heart and bad for your mental health.
Exercise even more important now!
In most jurisdictions we are allowed time out of lockdown to shop for essentials and to take exercise enabling us to go some way towards avoiding those unwanted health outcomes. Nutritious food is important. Exercise is important. Perhaps exercise and healthy eating are even more important now than they were in pre-covid days. Staying well (and perhaps even improving your level of physical fitness) may provide an additional prophylactic for our heart, lungs, and emotions at a time when our health is under much greater than normal threat.
So… grab a friend. Every day. You don’t have to do it alone… but you can if you prefer. Go for a surf. Have a bike ride. Go for a walk. Or a run. Swim across the bay. Do some roller blading. Shoot some hoops at a local outside court. Tennis is fun. Kick around a soccer ball. Do some weights if you have any at home. If not, check the net for exercises where you use the weight of your body for resistance. If isolation really does increase the possibility of surgical patients experiencing unwanted health outcomes then it might make sense for those of us who are not going under the knife but are forced to stay holed-up to take precautions against the negative effects of lock-down! Get out, get fit… and have some fun if you can.