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Prehab: A Potential Fit Pro Opportunity?

Prehab can save money and speed up recovery.

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Prehabilitation—or “prehab,” as it’s frequently called—turns out to be a good investment of both time and money. And fitness pros are uniquely positioned to offer this service—encouraging patients to move more, eat a healthier diet, cut back on tobacco, breathe more deeply, reduce stress, and focus on their goals for after the operation.

A University of Michigan follow-up study, published in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons (2019; 230 [3], 306–13), confirmed that a prehab program reduced total medical costs related to patient care and shortened hospital stays when compared with costs for patients who received similar surgical procedures without participation in a prehab program. “Every time the prehab [program] has been studied, it’s [been] found to increase the value of surgical care by improving care while reducing cost. This study cements the business case for hospitals to support it,” said principal investigator Michael J. Englesbe, MD, University of Michigan, Department of Surgery.

Many of the hospitals that participated in this research ended or scaled back the prehab programs when the study ended, but study authors recommend that insurers and hospitals adopt such programs. In the meantime, this evidentiary support for prehabilitation programs substantiates an opportunity for fitness professionals who want to provide this proven, beneficial service to clients who are facing surgery.

Question of the Month

Are you or any of your trainers at your facility offering “prehab” conditioning programs? For example, are there educational materials to let clients know that, if they’re facing surgery, training before their procedure may enhance their recovery? Have you partnered with any healthcare providers? If so, how are you reaching clients, and what has been their feedback  or the feedback from their healthcare providers? Please share your success stories.

We want to hear from you!  Email executive editor Joy Keller, [email protected].

Shirley Archer-Eichenberger, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, is an internationally acknowledged integrative health and mindfulness specialist, best-selling author of 16 fitness and wellness books translated into multiple languages and sold worldwide, award-winning health journalist, contributing editor to Fitness Journal, media spokesperson, and IDEA's 2008 Fitness Instructor of the Year. She's a 25-year industry veteran and former health and fitness educator at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, who has served on multiple industry committees and co-authored trade books and manuals for ACE, ACSM and YMCA of the USA. She has appeared on TV worldwide and was a featured trainer on America's Next Top Model.

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