Astronauts who spend months in space come home weakened because, with no gravity to provide resistance, there is nothing for their muscles to work against. Bedridden patients can’t escape gravity, but if they don’t move, their muscles don’t get the benefit of a workout and the results are similar. Patients who spend a long time in bed often suffer from weakened muscles and a reduced range of motion.
Lack of exercise can make some conditions worse, make it harder for patients to resume an active life when they recover, and reduce the quality of life for patients who are in their home hospital bed for the foreseeable future.
There are two main types of exercises that bedridden patients can do from their home hospital bed: passive mobilization and active mobilization exercises.
- Passive mobilization involves a physiotherapist or other carer moving the limbs of patients for them.
- Active mobilization exercises are carried out by the patient, although a physiotherapist may be present to guide and safeguard them.
In this article, we’re going to focus on active mobilization exercises. These are those a patient can complete on their home hospital bed without the hands-on help of a medical professional. We’ll start with a few simple body-weight and resistance exercises before discussing some of the equipment that bedridden patients may find useful.
Before embarking on any new exercise program, patients or their carers should ask a qualified medical professional for advice. Some exercises may not be suitable for patients with some conditions.
Exercises for Your Home Hospital Bed
There are two reasons to exercise. First, exercise helps increase or maintain range of motion. Second, they help increase or maintain muscle strength. Both help patients sustain a degree of independence and a better quality of life. Many home hospital bed exercises rely on nothing more than the weight of the patient’s body and gravity.
Palm stretches are excellent for building strength, range of motion, and dexterity in the hands and wrists.
- Bring your hand up towards your body.
- Extend your fingers and hold your hand flat.
- Keeping your palm open, touch your thumb with each finger in turn.
- Repeat with both hands as many times as feels comfortable.
Arm and leg lifts
Arm and leg lifts use the weight of the limb and gravity to give the muscles of the patient’s extremities a workout.
With arm lifts:
- Lie in a comfortable position and bring your arm up. You should feel some resistance.
- Hold your arm in this position for 10 seconds. If you can’t manage 10 seconds, don’t try too hard. Start with a shorter time and gradually increase the interval.
- If you cannot lift your whole arm off the bed, try with just your lower arm, resting your upper arm on the mattress.
Leg lifts follow a similar pattern:
- Lie comfortably and lift your leg towards the ceiling using your hip joint.
- Hold the leg in position for 10 seconds or for as long as feels comfortable.
- Gently lower the leg back to the bed.
- Repeat with the other leg.
Ankle pumps give the muscles in your lower legs and ankles a workout. They can be done when you are lying flat on your back and when you are sitting up in your adjustable home hospital bed.
- Ensure that your legs are straight.
- Keeping your legs against the bed, point your feet away from you so that the toes point towards the wall opposite your bed.
- Then, point your toes up towards the ceiling.
- Repeat for as long as you feel comfortable.
Heel slides work out the muscles of your leg and also some of the muscles in your lower torso.
- Lie flat on the bed or in a sitting position.
- Slide one foot towards you so that your knee points up to the ceiling.
- Gently slide the foot away from you and back into its original position.
- Repeat with the opposite leg.
You can think of this exercise as a sort of upside-down push-up. Instead of putting your palms on the floor and pushing against your body weight, you lie on the bed and push your arms upwards.
- Lie flat on the bed.
- Bend your arms and bring your hands upwards so that the backs of your hands rest on your shoulders.
- Push your hands up towards the ceiling, and then gently lower them back towards your shoulders.
- Repeat several times.
Exercise Equipment for the Home Medical Bed
Traditional gym equipment is unsuitable for bed-bound patients, but there is a wide range of exercise equipment purpose-made for people with limited mobility and strength.
- Exercise putty is also known as elastic putty or therapeutic hand putty. It is a soft and pliable putty with enough elasticity to avoid easy reshaping and breaking. It is often used to provide resistance for patients carrying out exercises to increase or maintain grip and hand strength.
- Sponge balls are small balls that can be used in much the same way as exercise putty or during other hand and arm exercises. Sponge balls are helpful for exercises that aim to improve strength, range of movement, and coordination.
- Resistance bands are, in essence, large elastic bands that can be used to add resistance to some of the exercises we discussed above. When anchored, they provide an opposing force for muscles to work against. Resistance bands are inexpensive and versatile enough to replace traditional weights in many scenarios.
- Ankle and wrist weights are weighted bands that patients can put on their ankles or wrists to increase resistance when doing exercises such as arm and leg lifts.
If you or someone you care about will be bed-bound for long periods, a well-designed exercise program can help them maintain their fitness and strength. Be sure to talk to your physiotherapist or doctor before doing any of the exercises we’ve discussed here.
If you would like to learn about home hospital beds and how to choose the right bed, mattress, and equipment, contact one of our bed experts today.