Dr Peter Herbert, an internationally renowned physiologist, is undergoing an in-depth research study in collaboration with Hywel Dda, the local health board, to investigate the recovery time of oncology patients if they go through an individualised exercise programme in advance of their surgery. 

This is a one-year study, with approximately 70 colorectal cancer patients involved as participants.

Aiming to start in September 2022, the study incorporates the Wattbike AtomX on site at the University as a key benchmarking and exercise tool throughout the 4-6-week exercise intervention, which includes functional and resistance training, with the main bulk of work being aerobic training using the Wattbikes.


Low VO2 max and VT1 score (the first ventilatory threshold; a marker of intensity that can be observed in a person's breathing at a point where lactate begins to accumulate in the blood) can lead to complications in surgery, as well as great post-operation trauma and longer recovery rates. And previous studies have found that time in hospital post-surgery has been decreased if the patients have improved their cardiovascular fitness prior to operation. 

Each participant will undergo three stages of physiological testing, at 4-6 weeks before surgery, 2-3 days before surgery and finally, 30 days post-surgery. 

These tests will help determine whether an improved fitness has helped reduce the recovery time required by the participant. On the process, Dr Herbert explains. “My role will be to physiologically assess each of the participants, using this information to create bespoke, individualised exercise plans and provide important fitness data that will assist the anaesthetists and surgeons in deciding how the surgery will be conducted. Essentially, I have between 4-6 weeks to improve each participant's fitness with personalised exercise interventions.”

The Wattbikes will be set up for the physiological testing at each stage as well as for the individualised aerobic training programme of each participant prior to their surgery date. These tests will help determine whether an improved fitness has helped reduce the recovery time required by the participant. 


“I believe that this study will show that the fitter you are pre-surgery, the quicker your recovery will be.” Dr Herbert explains. “In a 4-6-week programme of mainly aerobic exercise, I intend to be able to showcase the increased changes in participants aerobic capacity and ventilatory threshold markers. There is a lot of existing evidence out there to say that the higher the cardiovascular fitness of people going into surgery, the increased likelihood they will leave hospital quicker, recover better and suffer less trauma post-surgery.”

“I have used Wattbikes since they first came on the market, in all of my research studies. This is a big project that will result in numerous scientific papers being published. It will be an interesting journey for myself and the patients and the Wattbikes will play a major role.”


Although this study is about a controlled situation, in regards to recovery time post-surgery, Dr Herbert hopes that the findings will make each patient, and the wider population through the papers published subsequently, the key importance of continued activity through life in order to lead a healthier, happier, longer life. 

Regular activity and exercise should be incorporated into daily life, not just brought in as a last resort in a time of need. Physical activity reduces many major mortality risk factors including arterial hypertension, diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke and cancer.

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