Finding the motivation to follow through with your home exercise program
It can be difficult to do your homework. Here's how to find the motivation to follow through with your physical therapy home exercise programs and make the most of your recovery.
You’ve probably heard of physical therapy homework, or home exercise programs, before. A home exercise program is a personalized exercise program tailored to an individual, to be performed outside of the physical therapy clinic as a way to maintain progress during time away from the clinic. These programs are carefully designed to maximize recovery programs and allow you to continue to work outside of the clinic.
The challenge is that a home exercise program can be easily forgotten throughout the course of care and you may not be making strides towards recovery as expected, due to not being in the clinic. As physical therapists, it is our job to make sure you’re adhering to the program and performing it outside of PT sessions. So, the question is, how do we motivate you to perform your exercise program, and what steps can you take to make sure you stick to it?
Step one is to collaboratively create a plan and schedule. When faced with an injury, creating a routine is very important in the recovery process. At first, the plan may look like rest, ice and elevation. But then, the plan will need to evolve into something more challenging in order for you to return to where you were before the injury. Just like at the beginning of the process, it’s important to make the home exercise program an integral part of your routine.
Taking a look at your schedule with your PT and deciding what time of the day will be best to complete it is a good place to start. For example, if you prefer exercising in the morning, set aside 15 minutes before you get ready to do your program, rather than leaving it to the end of the day when you are tired.
Another important part of having an effective home program and sticking to it is making sure it fits in line with your goals. Informing your physical therapist about what is most important to you and what you want to get back to will help them design the best program for you.
For instance, if your goal is to return to golfing, the home exercise program should be designed to involve specific exercises that will strengthen or stretch the muscles needed to improve your golf swing. Sitting down and talking with your PT about how each of the exercises are directly related to helping you meet your goals will allow you to understand the “why” and motivate you to take the time to do it.
We don’t want these programs to feel like a job; we want you to try and have fun with it! If you’re getting bored of your same routine, switch it up. Instead of waking up and doing your home exercises right away, plan a different time in the day to do them or try going to a new place to do them. For people who enjoy nature, bring a yoga mat and do the exercises outside or at a park on a nice day. If getting a gym membership has been something on your radar, go get one and start your workout with your home program.
You can also take this as a time to decompress and manage your stress in life. Put on your favorite music, podcast, tv show or even meditation audio and make the time you do your exercises a peaceful time. There are so many ways to make it an enjoyable time, so find what you like to do and incorporate your exercises into that!
Finding the motivation to perform a home exercise program can be challenging. Understanding why you’re doing each activity and how it can benefit you will help to create the drive needed to reach your goals. Work with your therapist to develop a plan and program to help keep you on track and allow for long term outcomes. Have fun with it and find ways to make it something you enjoy!
Danielle Pasquale, DPT, is a physical therapist based in Greenwich. She strives to create a collaborative environment with each patient, ensuring they feel equally involved in their care.
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