Physical Therapist

What’s a home exercise program (HEP)?

Why’s it important?

Sometimes, when people hear the word “exercise,” they cringe. Some have never exercised a day in their life. “Exercise” seems foreign to them. Not true!

In fact, as we age our muscles need stimulation to decrease what’s called “sarcopenia,” which is a loss of muscle tissue due to the aging process. This leads to major muscle groups, like gluteal and quadricep muscles, deteriorating. Falls, leading to fractures, then pain, then fear of pain, and subsequent fear of mobility. It all leads to immobility. All can be traced back to sarcopenia. 

Muscle tissue can be built, regardless of age. Movement is the key. A specialized HEP encourages movement, decreasing muscle wasting. Therapy clinicians spend the majority of home health visit time on the HEP. It’s that important. The HEP is individualized for that person based on their current ability and past medical history. As my mentor once told me when I started in home health, “It’s our job to give them the tools, they have to do the building.” There’s no bigger tool than a HEP.

 A starter HEP for fall prevention does not need equipment, only a countertop (kitchen sink is great) for hand support (safety).

Here’s a basic HEP: marching in place (bring knee up to your chest), sidekicks (kick straight leg out to side), heel raises (up on your tippy toes), and sit-to-stand (up and down from a chair). All these have specific strengthening of major muscle groups. A good routine would be to perform 10 reps x twice a day, 5 days a week.

-Michael Glover, PTA