7 Activation Exercises for Bedridden People

Don't let a physical condition multiply the damage. One way to prevent this is for you to discover and practice activation exercises for the bedridden.
7 Activation Exercises for Bedridden People
Leidy Mora Molina

Reviewed and approved by the nurse Leidy Mora Molina.

Last update: 03 October, 2022

If you know someone who’s bedridden, you probably already know that this isn’t necessarily a permanent condition. There can be many causes for this situation, and each one will have its own reality and limitations to face. Activation exercises for bedridden people revitalize their muscles and prevent them from atrophying.

These patients have many different needs that need to be met, including spiritual, mental, and physical needs. They may have suffered from one or several serious injuries or had a major surgery. Physical activity and proper hygiene therefore become the best allies to recover from the sequelae successfully.

When we talk about activation exercises, we refer to those that seek to stimulate the areas of the body that need to be strengthened so that a bedridden person doesn’t suffer from the consequences of immobility. The main objective is to improve their responses to any stimulus.

This has nothing to do with muscle development but instead is about avoiding and preventing major health problems. In this article, we invite you to discover the importance of these activities so that you can help those who need them or do them yourself.

The importance of activation exercises for bedridden people

The objective is to carry out movements of the joints and muscles. For bedridden people, there are increasing limitations with regard to exercising. If they remain immobile for too long, they can experience complications such as blood clots, weakness and fatigue, joint stiffness, and even depression.

That’s why it’s important for bedridden people to perform activation exercises. Although they’re simple and light, they help prevent damage, such as bedsores or pressure ulcers. These tend to appear on the heels, coccyx, hips, and ankles.

If you manage to keep a bedridden person’s body active, you will also promote the simultaneous activation of their mind.

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Some activation exercises for bedridden people

The objective is that the patient’s body remains active and that this benefits the continuity of his or her treatment. If they don’t perform the exercises, it’s likely they will suffer from other injuries that will add more problems to their path of recovery.

These movements all stand out because they’re very simple to do. The key is to start them slowly with a maximum of 5 repetitions each.

Woman in a hospital bed
Some bedridden patients must start physical rehabilitation in the hospital. They then continue it at home.

1. Ankle bends

You can help with this if the person is sitting or lying on his or her back. The idea is that you help the person to bend the foot so that the toes face the ceiling. This movement is so simple that you can combine it with other movements, such as lifting the leg at the same time.

2. Move the toes

The goal is that you assist the person in each movement, but perhaps this is one of the movements that need the least support. Just follow these directions.

The exercise consists of flexing each of their toes, stretching them backward and then forwards. If the person who’s bedridden can’t hear you, you can do this for them.

3. Rotate the ankle

The person can be lying down or sitting up, with their legs straight. You start by lifting the leg slightly and initiate a rotation of each of the ankles from right to left, drawing a circle with them clockwise.

You can then repeat this in the opposite direction about four times in each direction. If it’s within reach, you can execute the movement for both ankles at the same time or start with one and then continue with the other.

4. Shoulder raises

This is an excellent exercise to practice seated. The person is going to start by lifting their shoulders, trying to bring them to the same level as their ears.

The range of this movement is often limited. Therefore, it’s best that when you raise your shoulders, you can hold them for a few seconds in that position before returning to the initial position.

Here, the patient works the trapezius muscles, which are muscles that occupy an area from the neck, upper back, and up to the shoulders.

5. Leg lifts

The intention of this movement is that you can take one of the patient’s legs and lift it slightly upward, very carefully. When the leg reaches the person’s height limit, proceed to rotate the ankle about three times.

Then, cautiously return the leg. Repeat this with the other side that remained still. Doing this sitting and lying down is highly recommended; either option is valid.

6. Arm pushes and wrist rotations

In a seated position or lying on the bed, this is one of the basic exercises for bedridden people. To do it, they should stretch out both arms and pretend to push something away from their body.

After doing this three times, the bedridden person should stop and start rotating both wrists of their hands. This can be done simultaneously or one at a time.

This twist should be developed in both directions of the body- first to the right, then to the left, or vice versa.

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7. Turn his or her head and neck

They should also start rotating their head from one side to the other. If you’re helping them, do this gently and carefully. The idea is that you should be able to feel a slight release of tension and a gentle stretch.

These side-to-side movements should be complemented with neck rolls. Ideally, the person should feel comfortable doing this sitting down. However, with appropriate support, it can also be performed with the person lying down.

activation exercises for bedridden people
People with certain mobility limitations can participate in these exercises with greater or lesser autonomy.

Tips for performing activation exercises for bedridden people with confidence

Remember that the patient’s treating physician must approve each of these activation exercises.

You must take into account that the bedridden person should have eaten several hours before starting the activities. Otherwise, it endangers their health, since they’re more prone to feel fatigued after eating and may even vomit up their food.

You must also choose the time of the day when the person feels the most motivated and full of energy to perform these exercises. At the same time, you will have to be very attentive to every sign that the person reveals during the movements, especially in the case of someone who cannot communicate. This will indicate whether it’s appropriate for you to continue or stop.

Be careful in the execution of these stretches, in the number of repetitions, and in the rest time between them.

The most important thing is that the bedridden patient can feel that his or her body is gaining mobility and resistance. Gradually, he/she should feel some improvement, despite being bedridden.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

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This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.