The Skinny on Home Exercises Programs
By Melanie E. Swan, OTR/L
What is a home exercise program (HEP)?
A home exercise program is a select group of exercises or
activities that your therapist has designed specifically for
you. These activities should be done at home between therapy
sessions, as per your therapist's instructions.
Why is a home exercise program important?
Your frequency/participation in therapy sessions may vary
from one week to the next, but what you do outside of therapy
can have a significant impact on your overall progress. Following
an individualized home exercise program can be an important
component of treatment as it helps you continue to make progress
in strength, endurance, movement and function in between therapy
What does a home exercise program look like for people
Home exercise programs vary depending on your individual needs.
Often home exercise programs will initially focus on scrubbing/weight
loading and desensitization techniques to begin actively engaging
the muscles in the affected area and help you manage your
pain better. After the initial phase of scrubbing and desensitization,
the home exercise program may be upgraded to focus on increasing
range of active movement and improving strength.
Many home exercise programs will include functional activities
in addition to stretches and exercises. These activities may
be things such as drinking from a cup with the affected hand
or wearing a shoe on the affected foot. Often these activities
are based on tasks that you currently have difficulty performing.
They may be things that you do for short periods of time frequently
throughout the day to help you incorporate the affected area
back into routine activities.
Can I make progress without a home exercise program?
Yes, you can make progress in therapy sessions and some of
that progress may carry over into improved participation in
functional activities. However, consistent participation in
exercises/activities outside of therapy sessions, as directed
by your therapist, may help you to achieve your goals more
If I do my home program exercises more often than I was
prescribed, will I get better faster?
Not necessarily. When your therapist designs a program for
you to follow at home, (s)he carefully considers your current
functional level, strength, endurance, health status and pain
level. Your home exercise program is designed to challenge
those areas. Over-challenging areas by upgrading your exercises
independently may result in greater fatigue and pain, limiting
your ability to participate fully in your therapy sessions
and impeding your progress.
You should always discuss any changes to your home exercise
program with your therapist so that (s)he can monitor your
response and help you be successful in achieving your goals.
Updated July 19, 2005