Introduction: To optimally target physiotherapy treatment, knowledge of the pre- and postoperative course of functional status in patients undergoing esophagectomy is required. The aim of this prospective longitudinal study was to investigate the course of functional status in patients with esophageal cancer before and after esophagectomy. Materials and methods: Functional status outcome measures of patients with esophageal cancer who underwent surgery between March 2012 and June 2016 were prospectively measured at 3 months and at 1 day before surgery and at 1 week and at 3 months after surgery. Analysis of repeated measurements with the mixed model approach was used to study changes over time. Results: Hundred fifty-five patients were measured at 3 months and at 1 day before surgery, of which 109 (70.3%) at 1 week and 60 (38.7%) at 3 months after surgery. Mean (SD) age at surgery was 63.5 years (9.3), and 122 patients (78.7%) were male. The incidence of postoperative complications was 83 (53.5%). Three months postoperatively, functional status measures returned to baseline levels, except from handgrip strength (beta [95% CI] −6.2 [-11.3 to −1.1]; P = 0.02) and fatigue (4.7 [0.7to 8.7]; P = 0.02). No differences were observed in the course of functional status between patients with and without postoperative complications. Conclusion: Functional status of patients undergoing esophagectomy returned to baseline values three months after surgery, despite the high incidence of postoperative complications. This requires rethinking the concept of prehabilitation, where clearly not all patients benefit from high functional status to prevent postoperative complications.