Prehab—What And Why?

Alan SpectorHow often have you thought, “I really need to get into shape?”

How often have you heard friends bragging about how often they walk or get to the gym or about how much weight they have lost?

How often have you seen a commercial for a local fitness facility, or for Jenny Craig, or for some new-fangled workout machine that fits nicely under your bed?

We’ve heard Oprah and Dr. Oz and scads of Today Show guests explain the benefits of getting and staying aerobically fit, physically strong, and fully flexible.

We are barraged with the message, “You need to be fit.  You need to get your weight under control.”

OK, OK, we’ve heard you.  We get it.  Or do we?

I’d like to propose another reason all of this fitness urging is right—a reason of great relevance to those of us who are Baby Boomers and beyond.  Name someone you know who has aged through retirement wihout a serious illness, without surgery, without accident.  I’ll bet the list is not very long.

Are you on that list?

Let’s face reality.  If you have been part of a conversation with retirement-age folks, it’s highly likely that somewhere in the conversation, normally pretty early in it, there is extensive talk of ailments, doctors, physical therapists, medications, aches, pains, etc.

My wife and I went to a screening of a documentary film called “Lunch.”  It was about a group of the older Hollywood comedians (e.g. Sid Caeser, Carl Reiner, Groucho Marx’s son, Gary Owen, Monty Hall) who, some time ago, got together every week to enjoy each other’s company.  In an interview, one of the participants said that they always start off the lunch with an “organ recital.”

“What do you mean?” asked the interviewer.

“Simple.  We talk about this organ that hurts, that organ that has been removed, another organ that requires medication…  Then, after we get the organ recital out of the way, we can start telling jokes and giving each other a hard time.”

So, given the inevitability of being part of the organ recital, what are you doing about it?  Consider this one word —“prehab.”

When you are confronted with that inevitable issue, which precondition would you choose?  Would you want to have looked back and rued the fact that you had been sedentary?  Or would you want to start your illness or injury battle from a position of strength?  I contend you would rather have done your prehab and entered the challenge strong, flexible, and aerobically fit.

During my hip replacement recovery (yes, both of them; no, one at a time; yes, I’m doing fine now—thank you), I needed upper body strength to manipulate through the routine activities of daily life and to facilitate my rehab—having done my prehab enhanced my ability to do all of that.

Prehab is not the few excercises they gave me to do several weeks before my surgery.  Yes, it was right to do them, and I did.  But waiting until something happens is normally too little too late.  For me, prehab is all of the strength, flexibility, and aerobic fitness I have developed and maintained over time.

By contrast, a friend needed hip surgery, but the doctors wouldn’t even operate on him until he lost a significant amount of weight.  Well, bariatric surgery and 140 pounds later, he had successful hip surgery.  But what if he had been doing prehab all along.  He might have avoided extra years of pain, a substantial amount of time in a wheel chair before the surgery, and the need for the bariatric procedure.  And his post-operation rehab could have been shorter than it has been.

I’m not looking forward to my next contribution to the organ recital, but being realistic, I’ll likely face that situation some day.  It’s likely that so will you.  The only question is when.  Immediately after being given the OK from my hip surgeon, I’ve been back at prehab—at least four days each week.

Is this just one more plea, one more reason, for physical fitness?  Yes!  You can probably list many of the other reasons to be fit, and doing prehab will enable you to take advantage of them all.  But the new reason for wanting to be fit is like an insurance policy.  When you are confronted by a medical issue, you’ll be ready for it.

The concept is pretty simple.  Taking action is more difficult.  What are we doing to make sure we are physically prepared for the eventuality?  Have we developed the daily and weekly habits to ensure we have optimized our strength, flexibility, and aerobic fitness?

What’s your prehab plan?


About Alan Spector

Alan Spector is the coauthor, along with Keith Lawrence, of the book, Your Retirement Quest: 10 Secrets for Creating and Living a Fulfilling Retirement.  Alan and Keith conduct workshops around the country, helping Baby Boomers plan for the nonfinancial aspects of retirement.  Since retiring from a successful 33-year executive career with the Procter & Gamble Company, Alan has been a founding partner of three businesses, the author of five books, and deeply involved with social service organizations, community initiatives to reduce violence, and education programming.  He is a management consultant, baseball player, nonprofit Board member, frequent traveler, speaker, blogger, and most importantly, the active and proud grandfather of four.  Alan lives in St. Louis with his wife, Ann.

Alan’s fifth book, Body Not Recovered, has been named as a “Hot New Release” on Amazon.  Learn more about Your Retirement Quest at, and learn more about Alan and his books at



  1. I really enjoyed the article. You’re right on target. i have bladder cancer caused by ACTOS, a diabetes medication. learned how important it is to get ther right kind of sleep at night, eat healthy meals, and keep moving. I’m still working on the weight issues that seem to come with diabetres (a recent problem). I’ll be 70 in June and have a reasonable goal to achieve. If you haven’t watched the calendar flip yet, you still have time. Here we come, 70!

    • Nina, I suggest you get a copy of “10 Reasons You Feel Old and Get Fat” by Frank Lipman, M.D. I think the book will provide a lot of help in solving or helping your health issues.

  2. Alan, I completely agree (whileI am suffering with flu right now, I try to keep moving, keep working out and keep doing things that will let me be more flexible, stronger, and in better shape.) Neve a jock in high school or college, I have worked to lose weight and become more active. I have seen too many of our classmates have medical problems that might have been avoided with some easy regular walking on sensible diet.
    As our class gets to be in the seventh decade, we need to realize that we should do all we can to be around for children, grankids, spouse, etc.

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