The Benefits of a Consistent Home Exercise Program

The Benefits of a Consistent Home Exercise Program

June 4, 2024

What is a home exercise program?

A home exercise program (HEP) is one of the most important components of physical therapy. An HEP is a group of individualized exercises prescribed by a physical therapist (PT) for the patient to perform at home. Initially, the PT will provide an HEP at the initial evaluation or first visit. The PT will have the patient practice each exercise to ensure they are performing them with correct form. As the patient progresses through their rehab, the PT will update the HEP to continue to challenge the patient appropriately and keep them moving in the right direction toward their goals. A good HEP eventually allows the patient to transition out of physical therapy and into an independent exercise routine at home after completing their PT sessions. 

Many patients report difficulty being consistent with a home exercise program due to various barriers including work schedule, busy family life, school commitments, etc. However, compliance to an HEP throughout the course of a patient’s rehab (and beyond!) is key to the patient’s success and best outcome. 

Why is compliance with a home exercise program important?

  • Improved muscle memory: Home exercises improve muscle memory and maintain or improve upon the gains made in the physical therapy session. While one hour sessions with a PT are valuable time, if no activity or exercises are done between PT visits, it is sometimes like starting over at square one each week. Performing an HEP consistently between visits can keep the momentum going in the right direction and allow for more progression to be done at the next visit. 
  • Less pain and better outcomes: Research shows that patients that consistently perform their HEP have quicker pain relief and better outcomes overall compared to those that do not. These patients usually meet their goals more often and more quickly. 
  • HEPs can set the foundation for lifestyle changes – Patients that comply with their HEP often report so much enjoyment and feeling better from exercise that they end up choosing to continue with those exercises, and others, well beyond their episode of physical therapy care. 
  • Prevent recurrent injuries – Patients that are not compliant with their HEP during or after their PT care are more likely to experience a recurrence of pain or another injury compared to patients that keep up with their exercises. 
  • Promote collaboration in a patient-centered model of healthcare – HEPs encourage patients to take an active role in their wellness and empower them to be an important contributor to their own recovery. 

Research shows that only about 35% of patients actually comply with their HEP. Here are some tips to stay engaged with your HEP:

  • Build time into your schedule to do your exercises. If you wait until you have nothing else to do, you likely will not get them done. 
  • Communicate challenges with your PT. For example, if you do an exercise just fine at the PT gym, but have difficulty finding a way to perform/replicate it at home, ask your PT. PTs are trained to be creative with exercise modifications or alternatives when needed. If you are having pain with a home exercise, discontinue until you can discuss with your PT. PTs can modify and adjust activities to ensure they are doing what they are supposed to do, rather than flaring up symptoms. 
  • Break up your routine. Breaking your exercise routine into 15-minute sessions, for example, can feel a lot less daunting than performing all of your exercises at once. Also ensure that you understand how often your PT is wanting you to perform the exercises so you can realistically plan each day. 
  • Focus on your long-term goals. Achieving goals in PT can be addicting. Ask your PT to help you remember where you started so you can remember how far you’ve come, and what you still have left to accomplish. Meeting goals can motivate you to continue on with your HEP faithfully. 

Remember, HEPs are not given as busy work or just another thing to add to your never-ending to-do list. HEPs are a valuable tool that can empower you to help prevent and manage symptoms and that can help you reach your personal goals faster!