I Have Booked a Joint Replacement, Should I Exercise?

Workcover Services | Effect Exercise Physiology Bowral

You have surgery for your hip or knees booked in. Maybe it’s 6 weeks away or maybe it’s 6 months away! Either way, people may have told you to take it easy… We can assure you that there are more effective options to get you moving and feeling better before surgery.

Rather than putting up with pain, read below to find successful strategies on how to improve your pain and even improve your ability to get moving again after surgery.

Why Should I Exercise Before Surgery?

Exercising before a joint replacement (or any orthopaedic surgery!) is an excellent idea that can improve your recovery time and surgery outcomes. Research suggests that pre-operative rehabilitation or “PREHAB” will enhance a patient’s functional capacity before surgery, with the aim of improving postoperative outcomes. A growing body of evidence has shown reduced length of stay in hospital, reduction in postoperative pain, and less postoperative complications.”(Article). 

Ensuring you are healthy before a joint replacement will also improve your outcomes. Other important factors to consider include:

  • Bodyweight (normal for your height and age)
  • Smoking (quitting smoking 8 weeks before surgery significantly decreases your risk of complications)
  • Reduce alcohol consumption
  • Ensure proper nutrient levels through a balanced diet
  • Psychological support to help ease the stress response in relation to the surgery (partner, family and friends)

So What Exercise Should I Do?

A regular strengthening program aimed at your quads, hamstrings and calves will help you with activities of daily living before your operation and improve your tolerance to exercise during your rehabilitation following your operation.

Seeing a health professional is recommended to educate yourself on the surgical procedure you are about to receive, expected timeframes and milestones following surgery. An Exercise Physiologist will have the required experience and expertise with joint replacements to not only give you the right information, but also to design a strengthening program individualised towards your own needs.


Here are 3 simple exercises we recommend to get you started on your PREHAB journey.  Start slowly and allow the body to adjust before increase the workload or intensity.


Walking is an excellent exercise to strengthening your lower body and also keeps your cardiorespiratory system happy and healthy. Start with 5 minutes and aim to increase by 5 minutes each fortnight, until you are walking continuously for 30-40 mins. If walking outdoors is too painful at the moment you can try walking on a treadmill, in a pool or cycling. All are lower impact options.


Seated knee extension

This seated exercise helps strengthen the quadriceps, or thigh muscles. Sit in a chair and slowly straighten one leg until your knee is as straight as it will go. Hold for 2 seconds and slowly lower the leg until it lightly touches the ground again. Repeat for 8 repetitions on each leg. See if you can work up to 20 repetitions on each leg.

Standing hamstring curl

This exercise helps to strengthen the hamstrings, which run up the back of your thigh. Stand with your hands on a chair or table for support, bend at the knee to pull one heel as close to your buttock as you can, hold for 2 seconds and slowly release. Ensure you keep your knee “behind” your hip to strengthen your gluteal muscles also. Repeat for 8 repetitions on each leg. See if you can work up to 20 repetitions on each leg.




If any of these exercises are too painful OR are too easy… You may need a health professional to assist you. You can message us right away and an expert will help answer your questions about these exercises or your operation.

We are here to help you!

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