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Prehabilitation could save lives in a pandemic

BMJ 2020; 369 doi: (Published 06 April 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;369:m1386

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  1. Julie K Silver, associate professor and associate chair
  1. Department of Physical Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston, USA
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    Follow Julie on Twitter @JulieSilverMD

Let’s use best practice prehabilitation to improve patients’ health before the upcoming “battle”

Prehabilitation involves interventions aimed at improving patients’ health before an anticipated upcoming physiologic stressor so that they are better able to withstand that stress. Prehabilitation emerged as a way to prepare soldiers for battle in the second world war. A study published in 1946 in The BMJ, entitled Prehabilitation, Rehabilitation, and Revocation in the Army, described an experiment in which “good food, lodging, hygiene, and recreation combined with controlled physical training and education” for a period of around two months was found to improve the health ratings of 85% of the 12 000 men who participated. The report stated that the participants’ outlook on life also improved, and that these physical and psychological changes were “astonishingly easy” to accomplish. Modern day military training continues to use similar interventions.

Although the covid-19 pandemic is not a literal war, many people will have to “fight” a future infection, and what science has taught us since that study was published could be vital to helping affected patients to survive. Crucial to understanding why prehabilitation may be valuable during …

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