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The purpose of this study was to assess early physical function after total hip or knee arthroplasty (THA/TKA), and the correlation between patient-reported outcome measures, physical performance and actual physical activity (measured by actigraphy).A total of 80 patients aged 55 to 80 years undergoing THA or TKA for osteoarthritis were included in this prospective cohort study. The main outcome measure was change in patient reported hip or knee injury and osteoarthritis outcome score (HOOS/KOOS) from preoperatively until post-operative day 13 (THA) or 20 (TKA). Secondary measures were correlations to objectively assessed change in physical performance (paced-walk, chairstand, stair-climb tests) at day 14 (THA) or 21 (TKA) and actual physical activity (actigraphy) measured at day 12 and 13 (THA) or 19 and 20 (TKA).Patients reported improved physical function (HOOS or KOOS) pre-operatively until day 13 (THA) or 20 (TKA) with a mean difference of 7 (95% confidence interval (CI) 1 to 13, p = 0.033) and 6 (95% CI 1 to 12, p = 0.033) percentage points, respectively. By contrast, objectively assessed physical function and activity declined, with no correlations between subjective and objective assessments for either THA or TKA patients (r2 ≤ 0.16, p ≥ 0.314).Early improvement in patient-reported physical function after THA/TKA does not correlate with objectively assessed function, and patient reported outcomes should not be used as the only measure of recovery.