Do Home Exercise Programs Really Help?

As physical therapists, we have been asked this question by doctors and patients many times over the years. The short answer: an emphatic yes. In fact, it is truly crucial for the patient to complete a home program in order to meet their goals and maintain gains made following discharge from PT. Many studies show improvement in patients that complete their home exercises compared with those that do not. As a patient, you will be asked by your PT, OT and referring doctor if you are completing your exercises throughout your plan of care. I plead with all my patients to be honest when answering. As medical providers, we’re not actually chomping at the bit to shame our patients for not holding up their end of the bargain; however, we do need to know if these exercises we prescribe for outside of the clinic are appropriate.

At DPT, we pride ourselves on not being “cookie cutter” therapists, and we push to provide our patients personalized programs to help them reach their goals. Knowing whether the patient is completing home exercises at the dosage and frequency recommended is imperative in decision making. A related example: many medications doctors prescribe can take multiple weeks to start taking effect. If medications are not taken at the proper frequency and dosage, not only will the effects be limited, they can be detrimental to the patient’s health. Physical therapists don’t prescribe medication but we do prescribe home exercises. Treat your home exercises like your medication!

Argent, et al. (reference below) discusses the barriers of home exercises with patients. We understand that work and personal schedules make it hard to maintain compliance with a home exercise program. By identifying your own barriers and keeping an open mindset, there are many ways to implement these exercises into your busy day. Keep it simple! Our therapists here will help with identifying those barriers and come up with solutions to help with home exercise compliance.

Argent, R., Daly, A., & Caulfield, B. (2018, March 1). Patient involvement with home-based exercise programs: Can Connected Health Interventions influence adherence? JMIR mHealth and uHealth. Retrieved July 21, 2022, from