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Surg Endosc. 2015 Feb;29(2):474-80. doi: 10.1007/s00464-014-3691-7. Epub 2014 Jul 9.

The effects of acute aerobic exercise on the acquisition and retention of laparoscopic skills.

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Department of Surgery, Steinberg-Bernstein Centre for Minimally Invasive Surgery and Innovation, McGill University Health Centre, 1650 Cedar Avenue E19-117, Montreal, QC, Canada,



Exercise is beneficial to learning. The purpose of this research was to determine whether an episode of aerobic exercise prior to practice improves the acquisition and retention of laparoscopic skills in the fundamentals of laparoscopic surgery (FLS) simulator.


Baseline maximal physical fitness (VO2 max), performance on peg transfer (PT), pattern cut (PC), and intracorporeal suture (ICS) were measured for FLS naïve undergraduates. 2 Weeks later, participants were randomized into exercise (E) and control (C) groups. C did unrelated work for 40 min and then practiced PT and PC for 10 min, and ICS for 15 min. Final scores were recorded. In E, participants ran on a treadmill for 20 min at 60 % of their VO2 max. After a 15 min cool down, they engaged in identical FLS simulator training as group C. Both groups completed the NASA task load index (TLX) to assess workload. Retention was recorded 2 months after the training session. Groups were compared using t tests, χ(2) and Wilcoxon rank tests. p < 0.05 was considered significant.


There were 52 participants (22 in C; 30 in E) with high physical fitness at baseline. Demographics between the groups were similar at baseline. There were no differences in VO2 max and scores on the three tasks at baseline (all p values NS). There was no statistical significance between the scores of the C and E groups at the training session and retention, except for higher PT scores in the E group after the training session.


In physically fit, surgically naïve students, one bout of aerobic exercise enhanced immediate learning of simple FLS skills but did not have an impact on more complex skills or on retention. The use of exercise in the surgical curriculum, or as a learning tool, warrants further investigation regarding how best to apply it.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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