The Importance of the Home Exercise Program in Physical Therapy

Young woman exercising at home doing push ups and looking at her mobile phone.Whether you are a past physical therapy patient or current one, you most likely were given an “HEP” or home exercise program within the first few visits. The exercises are not meant to be busy work but rather to help supplement what you have been doing in your therapy visits in the clinic. Attending physical therapy 2-3x per week for 45 minutes to an hour is a tremendous start on your pathway to success. However, performing supplemental exercises outside of therapy, as prescribed by your therapist, can help you reach your goals much faster and has been shown to demonstrate a greater increase in physical function.

Unfortunately, research shows that up to 70% of patients do not follow through on their home exercises! Most of us that for us to achieve a goal or get better at something, practice and repetition are the key ingredients. For example, let’s take look at a professional athlete. Do they practice just three times a week for an hour and expect to get better? No! They must put in extra work outside of their practices, either in the weight room or with a trainer to make sure that they can excel at what they do. Physical therapy patients are no different in this perspective besides that the goal that they are trying to achieve.

So why are adherence rates so low for HEPs? Both the patient and physical therapist at are fault for these low rates. On the patient perspective, things such as pain during HEP performance, low levels of physical activity prior to therapy, and low self-efficacy rates are among the most common barrier to successful HEP performance. Besides looking at what therapists can do themselves to help improve this number, they can also give you some tips to help you stay on track in your recovery with a regular HEP routine.

Without further ado, here are some of the most common techniques and tips to help you stay adhered to your HEP:

  • Develop Structure- if you exercise routinely, this may be easier for you. However, if you are on who does not frequently exercise, it may be hard to create a schedule to find time to exercise at home. Look at your schedule throughout the day. Is it easier to exercise in the morning before work or after dinner each night? Find a time that fits into your schedule and keep track of it either by putting reminders in your smartphone or using Post-It notes allow you to stay faithful to your program.
  • Track your Workouts- if you want to really go the extra mile, write down when you did your exercises and how you were able to perform them. For example, if you are doing a strengthening exercise with a typical 3 set, 10 rep style and had to struggle getting to repetition number 30, writing down these details can help you watch your progress as well as help your therapist progress your plan!
  • Set Goals- goal setting is another key ingredient to success. Think about why you are attending physical therapy and what you wish to gain from attending physical therapy. Let’s say that your goal is to be able to lift a 5-pound pitcher to the top shelf in your cabinets. Your therapist can devise an exercise program targeting your current impairments that are limiting you from performing this activity.
  • Ask Questions! – a major reason that exercises are not performed at home is because that the patient is confused on how to perform the exercise correctly. Most therapists will give you a detailed printout of the exercises with both written instructions as well as pictures to help visual the correct form for each exercise. If you are even the slightest bit confused, ask your therapist to demonstrate the correct form for the exercise. Also, if your program becomes too easy or too hard, feel free to ask your therapist to modify it accordingly!


As you can see, the importance of performing your HEP and adhering to it can positively affect your recovery and potentially speed it up. These few tips may be of enough help for you to stay on top of your HEP performance but if have additional questions or concerns, please ask your physical therapist as they are there to help you both in and outside of the clinic!

Posted in: Fitness, Health & Wellness, Physical Therapy

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