Patients who are more fit prior to surgery may have shorter hospital stays and may be discharged to home for outpatient rehab, rather than to a rehab facility for inpatient therapy. They also have fewer outpatient rehab sessions, says physical therapist Steve Sylvester, PhD, assistant professor of exercise science at Palm Beach Atlantic Univer­sity in West Palm Beach, Fla.

“Patients can more quickly do recommended exercises at home, with follow-up on an as-needed basis, whereas those who haven’t had pre-hab need more hands-on sessions,” he says.

How to get pre-hab

The best approach to pre-hab is having individual sessions with a physical therapist, but that can be costly. Despite the proven benefits of pre-hab, not all insurance pays for it.

“Insurance can be one of the most difficult obstacles for pre-hab patients,” says Sylvester. “Physical therapy coverage often is limited to six weeks total – including pre-hab and rehab – or pre-hab may not be covered.”

If your insurance doesn’t cover pre-hab, talk to your doctor. Some hospitals offer pre-hab as part of a free pre-surgery education course. Or you might be able to schedule just one or two appointments with a physical therapist who can review – and possibly adapt – a regimen like these exercises for you to do on your own.