Exercises For Bedridden Elderly [With Tips]

Today we are going to talk about exercises for bedridden elderly. If you or your loved one is bedridden due to injury or disability, it’s important to try to exercise because prolonged bed rest is detrimental to your health in old age.

There are many reasons one might end up bedridden for a long time. Common reasons include injuries like a broken leg or a pelvic fracture, prolonged infection, stroke, diabetes, surgery, and several serious illnesses that affect your strength and ability to move on your own.

As we grow older, our body loses its ability to maintain strength and muscle mass. These two are paramount for your ability to move and function independently. Essentially your freedom depends on them and you should treat them with such importance.

When you become bedridden, the rate at which you lose muscle strength and mass becomes exponentially faster. If you were frail before becoming bedridden it’s possible to lose your ability to walk in a single week. When you lose the ability to move on your own feet, the fight against loss of strength becomes much harder.

That’s why it’s extremely important to take care of your strength and muscle mass before you are bedridden. This way you will have more to spare, so to speak, in case of becoming bedridden.

The other important factor is to exercise to the best of your ability while in bed. There are many conditions that can prevent this completely but they are rare. If you are bedridden because of a hip fracture, for example, it’s still possible to exercise most of your body with a few simple daily exercises.

It doesn’t take much to keep your strength from diminishing, it’s the complete rest that is the most dangerous.

What Are Bed Exercises

Exercises that bedridden elderly can perform are called bed exercises. As the name suggests, they are exercises you can perform while lying in the bed. Depending on the restrictions of your physical health you can exercise most muscles of your body.

As always, before trying any of these exercises talk with your doctor. And follow the recommendations of your treating medical professionals.

Most of these exercises involve either moving one or several limbs and flexing muscles statically. The aim of these exercises is not to increase strength in a conventional way. The aim is to simply activate the nerves and muscle fibers in your muscles to signal your body to not start breaking down muscle mass for energy.

You see, as we are at complete rest for extended periods of time, it gives our body the signal that the muscle mass we have is not useful survival and functioning and it begins to break down in to proteins.

This same can happen you don’t get enough protein in your diet, your body will take what it needs from the muscles tissues to repair other tissues. Besides losing muscle mass, the nerves that control the muscles lose signaling strength when not used.

Being Bedridden Is Not Good For Your Muscles

This is the exact opposite of building muscle mass and strength. Which consists of lifting or moving increasingly demanding weights or resistance. This forces your body to think it needs more muscle mass and strength to be able to perform. It accomplishes this by synthesizing muscle mass from proteins and improving neural signaling.

Surprisingly this increase in muscle mass makes our bodies and minds healthier in many ways. It’s natures way of rewarding us from exercises and from the perspective of evolution it shows our bodies are meant to move. We become healthy when we are active and we become sick and weak when we are sedentary.

So when you become bedridden it’s imperative you do your absolute best to activate your body to maintain as much strength and muscle mass as you can. With the permission and consideration of your treating physician of course!

Who Are Bed Exercises For

I want to be clear that these bed exercises are meant solely for people who are bedridden. They are not sufficient for improving and maintaining muscle mass and strength in otherwise healthy people.

If you are able to move on your own, even for short distances, you will get much more benefit from even a short walk and some strength exercises for the upper body.

active life style is important for fat loss

So don’t try to avoid actual exercise by doing a few of these exercises in the bed in the evening thinking that’s enough. You can of course do them, but there are much more beneficial exercises for you. I’ve shown some in the articles Free Weight Exercises For SeniorsLunges For Seniors, and Hand Weight Exercises For Seniors [With Tips].

If you are truly bedridden, these exercises are for you. Their aim is simply to activate the muscles to prevent muscle loss during extended rest. When done correctly, in the best-case scenario they can save your ability to walk and move on your own.

Exercises For Bedridden Elderly

Bed exercises to strengthen the legs

Leg strength is the most important factor for independent living. You lose it very fast when bedridden. The risk of losing your ability to walk is very real. So it’s important to do your best to maintain leg strength.

I’ve talked about the importance of leg strength in the articles Benefits Of Strength Training For Seniors [Complete Guide]Leg Strengthening Exercises For Seniors [4 Simple Exercises]Ankle Exercises For SeniorsWeak Legs On Seniors (5 Minute Fix!). And many others you can find in the upper menu.

These exercises by Jill Gilbert improve your ability to walk by strengthening the muscles of the leg. They include different kinds of leg raises done on your back, side, and belly. (YouTube embed. Content not by ElderStrength.com):

If you are unable to raise your legs or can’t roll on to your side freely, you might want to try electrostimulation muscle therapy. It can’t build real strength but it’s much better than nothing.

Core Exercises For Bedridden Elderly

Core strength is very important for your health and for the functioning of your body. You will also lose core strength very fast when bedridden. This is because the core’s main function is to support your upper body.

This very simple bed exercise by Workout Warriors is effective for strengthening the core even if you are not bedridden. Don’t worry if you are not able to lift your legs much with the exercise. Even activating the abdominal for several repetitions by trying to lift your legs or torso will maintain strength much better than complete rest. (YouTube embed. Content not by ElderStrength.com)

You can learn more about the importance of core training in the articles Core Strength Exercises For Seniors [With Examples]Best Ab Exercises For Seniors [3 Exercises With Tips], and Sit-Ups For Seniors.

Arm And Upper Body Exercises For Bedridden Elderly

Just like your legs and core, your upper body will lose strength when you are bedridden. Upper body strength is not as critical as leg and core strength. But it’s still very important for functioning independently.

These upper body exercises by Jill Gilbert are simple and easy to do even in bed. They will activate most of your arm, shoulder and upper body musculature and get the blood flowing. (YouTube embed. Content not by ElderStrength.com):

You can learn more about training the arms and the upper body in the articles:


I hope you found these exercises for bedridden elderly useful. If you have any questions or suggestions, please leave a comment below and I will do my best to answer you.

Even if you are bedridden, exercise is very important for your health. More so actually than when you are able to move freely because you lose your normal daily activity.

Preserving muscle mass and strength is crucial for health and longevity. As well as your ability to move independently.  So please don’t  take this lightly.

If you are seriously ill and can’t exercise at all. Even in bed due to fatigue and/or pain. Think about using an electrostimulation muscle therapy device which will help  activate your muscles enough to slow down the degradation significantly. Studies have shown they are useful for this purpose, that’s what they use it in space for.

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See you next time!

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