One of the biggest frustrations we face as physical therapists is ensuring that our patients feel engaged with and complete their home exercises. Before diving into the importance of completing a home exercise program, we need to be honest that we as therapists are by no means perfect. We are, on paper, the experts of the musculoskeletal system and the go-to healthcare providers when it comes to functional movement. However, we don’t always hold up our own end of the bargain. We are also plagued with periods of complacency, lack of motivation, and “I know what’s best for me” attitudes. That is all to say that this is not a post to pontificate, but rather a panorama of human nature focused in through a lens geared towards a patient population.
You wouldn’t skip “Take My Paycheck to the Bank Day” so why do we skip “Take Care of My Health Day”?
Finding time to complete our home exercises surprisingly isn’t about time. It is about the degree of importance you make it a priority. Let’s take the schedule you have now and assume it is as packed full as it possibly can be. What if I said I will give you an extra $1,000 per week but the caveat is you have to drive a half an hour to a specific bank because that is the only bank that is capable of accepting that check? Would time still be a factor? For a few people, time might still be the biggest hindrance. For most of us, we will find a way to create an extra hour to go to and from that bank for an extra $1,000 per week. What’s the difference then if we have the time, but don’t believe we have the time? Priority. Unfortunately, if I told you that you could potentially save hundreds, thousands, or even ten thousands of dollars in the long-term by creating that extra half hour to complete your exercises, it wouldn’t have the same impact as the immediate gratification of $1,000 per week in your pocket starting tomorrow. The reality is though, that $1,000 per week can’t give you the one thing that consistent exercise can give you in the long-term. Time.
We are constantly living for the present, often at the sake of our futures. Ignoring our health may not have immediate consequences, but it might be the difference between having a high quality of life or low quality of life during the last 10 or 15 years of your life. So, the next time you are having a debate about whether or not you should do your exercises, don’t think about your quality of life today, but think about the future you, waiting to find out if they will be walking or bed-ridden, and how much their fate depends on your consistent dedication to being active!
Dr. Will Boyd, PT, DPT