After a total hip replacement, many people are eager to return to an active lifestyle – and with good reason!
The benefits of exercise after a hip replacement include improved cardiovascular fitness, psychological satisfaction, muscle strength, flexibility, coordination, balance, and endurance. However, it is natural to have some questions and concerns about getting back to your preferred level of activity.
While everyone’s recovery is unique and you should always follow the advice of your physician and physical therapist, these guidelines will help give you an idea of what to expect and how to plan your return to activities.
In the first six weeks after surgery major goals include strengthening, balance training, and progressing to walking without the use of an assistive device. In the following 6 to 12 weeks it is important to focus on more advanced therapy goals. These may include regaining full strength, improving endurance, being able to function at home independently (getting dressed, for example), and going up and down stairs safely.
When you have met your physical therapy goals, are not experiencing any pain, and the X-rays taken by your surgeon look good, you will likely be ready to return to exercise. Your physical therapist and physician will let you know when the appropriate time is but total hip replacement patients typically return to certain activities three to six months after surgery.
Speak with your surgeon and physical therapist about which postoperative activities are best for you. Studies have shown that patients who participated in sports exercises prior to their surgery are more likely to be able to return that activity safely. In addition, patients with a lower body mass index often experience a smoother transition back to activities and sports.
There are plenty of options, so feel free to discuss them and ask questions!
While different surgeons may have different recommendations low-impact sports are generally safe for patients to participate in after having a total hip replacement. These include (but are not limited to) swimming, doubles tennis, golf, hiking, cycling, low-impact aerobics, and rowing. These activities also have a low fall risk, which is very important after having a total hip replacement.
It is strongly recommended that high-impact sports with high fall risk and possible contact be avoided after a total hip replacement. These include any sports involving running, jumping, and repetitive high impact on the hip, specifically racquetball, squash, basketball, soccer, football, softball, snowboarding, and high-impact aerobics. Sports such as downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, weightlifting, ice skating, and rollerblading involve significant impact and an increased risk for falls. Consult with your physical therapist or surgeon before participating in Pilates or yoga to be sure your healthcare team has cleared you for these activities.
Wherever your interests are there are many activities that you can enjoy safely once you have recovered from total hip replacement surgery. This is a new chapter in your life and well-being, make the most of it!