What are at-home exercises, and do they really matter? We answer those questions for you today...

Are you gearing up for a big vacation? Whether it’s a week of fun in the sun, a long weekend of exploring your favorite city, or a cross-country road trip, there’s one thing you definitely need to pack: a list of your at-home physical therapy exercises.

Yes, we know vacation is all about “getting away,” but it’s important that you don’t lose any of the gains you’ve made in physical therapy, says Andrew Russell, clinic director at ATI Physical Therapy in Lancaster, PA

Today, Russell shares with us the importance of an at-home exercise program and how you can enjoy your vacation while still getting in your exercises, too!

Why do at-home exercises matter?

Patients are typically in therapy about two to three times per week, which isn’t always enough time to deal with an impairment. The at-home exercise program can help supplement the gains a patient makes while at an actual physical therapy appointment.

What types of at-home exercises do patients perform?

It depends on the patient, but the initial focus of at-home exercises is usually increasing range of motion, particularly in post-operative patients. Most at-home exercises focus on stretching and flexibility, since patients perform more strength-building exercises during physical therapy itself with the supervision of a therapist.

How can I perform exercises at-home without equipment?

Therapists work with patients to develop an exercise program that helps meet their goals and doesn’t require them to use anything they don’t have access to at home, Andrew says. Physical therapists can also help patients find substitutes for equipment, such as using soup cans for light weights or using stairs for balancing exercises.

How long do at-home exercises normally take?

Patients typically get overwhelmed with a long list of exercises, so therapists typically recommend three to five exercises to do consistently. The exercises shouldn’t take very long, and Andrew recommends getting them finished first thing in the morning.

What should patients do if they go on vacation?

Andrew notes that he typically gives his patients two sets of exercises if they’re going on vacation – one for stretching and another for strengthening to do on the days they would typically be in therapy. If there’s another physical therapy clinic where they’re vacationing, Andrew recommends making an appointment and going to a therapy session or two while away.

“The most important thing is not to lose any strength or range of motion that you’ve gained since starting PT,” Andrew says. “Do your best to get in your exercises, go to a different ATI clinic if possible, and ask questions. We always tell patients they can call us if they’re away and have questions. We’re here for them.”