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Bed Exercises For The Elderly

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Most people start and end their day in bed. Older adults and inactive seniors who can’t get around very easily may find it more convenient to exercise in bed. What kinds of exercises are best for less mobile or elderly bedridden patients?

Here are some bed exercises for the elderly:

  • Sit-ups
  • Leg lifts
  • Bridges
  • Hand squeezes
  • Push-ups/modified planks

Keep reading for more information on exercising in bed. We’ll include detailed steps on how to do the simple exercises above, as well as whether senior citizens can really stay fit by exercising from the comfort of their bed.

Is Working Out In Bed Effective?

For young adults who exclusively work out at a gym, you might wonder how beneficial exercising in bed can really be. After all, the bed is a place of relaxation and refuge, of resting and dreaming, not for sweating it out.

That doesn’t mean a bed can’t double as a place for physical fitness. Experts generally agree that getting regular exercise, even if it is rather mild, is better than being sedentary. 

According to Family Doctor.org, it’s recommended that seniors who are 65 and older should exercise at least 2.5 hours per week. Their exercise program should be “moderate,” with one such example: taking a brisk walk.

Obviously, briskly walking and exercising in bed aren’t the same, but that doesn’t mean that a senior can’t achieve moderate amounts of exercise in bed. 

If anything, working out in bed might lead to even more muscles being activated than doing the same exercise on other surfaces.

Healthline says this: “Similar to using a foam mat or exercise ball, bed exercises may help recruit small stabilizing muscles while working large prime movers. Unstable surfaces can be beneficial for building core strength, improving balance, and toning areas of the body like the abs and glutes.” 

Yes, you read that right.

Because a bed is an unstable surface, working out in bed causes some of your body’s muscles to work harder to keep you upright. That means it can be a great way to get a more rewarding, effective workout! 

The Benefits of Bed Exercises For Seniors

If you’re trying to get your senior parent or loved one to begin exercising in bed, just bring up these benefits in conversation. You might quickly convince them that a workout in bed can be fun, challenging, and rewarding. 

Convenient And Accessible

As a senior gets older, their mobility and range of motion tends to lessen. Their exercise options become more limited as a result. Where once they used to take yoga or spin classes with some friends, now they can barely get to the local community fitness center.

It is important for older adults to do maintain their muscles mass as much as possible, however.

Active mobilization exercises (those that require you to move your body yourself) are a good way to get in some strength training to maintain good balance. Lower back pain can be improved through exercise and, as any physical therapist will tell you, staying mobile KEEPS you mobile!

For some seniors, though, even moving from one half of the house to another is difficult, so exercising in bed can be a good idea. They can even exercise when they first wake up to get their day off to the right start.

They can also exercise an hour or two before they go to sleep. Although you might think this can leave you amped up and unable to sleep, the opposite is true.

A 2020 study from the European Journal of Sports Science with 12 participants found that exercising before bed didn’t cause sleepless nights. The participants, all of them male, exercised for at least 30 minutes, wrapping up their workout 90 minutes before they slept in the research lab.

Some of the participants did intense exercise and others more moderate physical fitness activities. The researchers found that regardless of the type of exercise the participants did, their sleep was uninterrupted all the same. 

Now, the study admittedly had a small sample size, which can skew results. That said, the link between exercise and better-quality sleep is clear from other data. 

Sleep Foundation says that “exercising also improves sleep for many people. Specifically, moderate-to-vigorous exercise can increase sleep quality for adults and reduce sleep onset – or the time it takes to fall asleep – and decrease the amount of time they lie awake in bed during the night.”

Potential Lower Risk of Injury 

Seniors are more prone to aches and pains as they get up there in age. For them, working out on a hard floor can be especially uncomfortable.

If they’re sore five minutes into a workout, then it’s hard to continue exercising. They might decide to quit early to spare their bones or joints.

A senior’s bed is always comfortable. If anything, it might be the most comfortable place in the world for them.

The softness of the bed makes it much easier for a senior to exercise and even try moves that they might not want to do on a hard surface. After all, the risk of falls is minimized, and if they do slip, they know they’ll land on a soft surface. 

This can likely lower their risk of injury so they can keep exercising with confidence and enjoyment. 

Lastly, bed mobility exercises can help ward off painful pressure sores in bedridden seniors.

Good Place To Rest If Fatigue Kicks In 

The elderly also lack stamina, which causes them to struggle to keep up the pace when exercising for long periods.

If a senior decides they have to take a break, they’ll have a cozy place to rest in their bed. They can take their time and then get back to their workout when they’re ready. 

How Can An Elderly Person Exercise In Bed?

What kind of fitness options do elderly people have while exercising in bed? They can do so many kinds of exercises! Let’s talk about some of the options now. 

Using Resistance Bands

Although lifting weights doesn’t really work when in bed, exercising with resistance bands does. Resistance bands are a good alternative to the bulky workout machines at the gym that a senior likely can’t navigate anymore. 

Working out with resistance bands can burn fat, improve a senior’s form, torch calories, improve their strength (something that seniors lose as they age), and even tone their muscles.

Using resistance bands is easy, and a set of bands is not expensive, either. They’re a win-win! 

Stretching

People always caution you to stretch before a workout, but stretching can be a workout in and of itself if you do it right. 

By taking the time to stretch in the morning, your circulation improves, and your body begins to wake up out of its sleep. Your parasympathetic nervous system can activate, which can promote digestion and calm. It’s hard to start a day better! 

Yoga

Many yoga moves are done in a seated or supine position, and these are perfect to replicate from a senior’s bed.

Besides stretching and toning muscles, yoga can burn calories and increase flexibility, which is especially advantageous for the elderly.

Many yoga moves are not high intensity so even seniors can do them. 

Cardio

Then there are the cardio exercises a senior can do in bed, five of which we’ll talk about in the next section.

These are fat-burning and calorie-torching moves that tone muscles and make the body stronger. They’re great to do every day or several times per week! 

5 Bed Exercises For Seniors

Per the intro, here are several exercises that a senior can incorporate into their bed exercise routine. In the beginning, we recommend supervising your senior parent or loved one while they work out just to ensure they don’t hurt themselves. 

We also recommend seeing their doctor to be sure there are no health issues before beginning the following exercises.

Sit-Ups

You already know that working core muscles on a softer surface like a bed is beneficial, so why not do some sit-ups or crunches? 

To do a proper sit-up, a senior should lie down flat on the bed. Next, lift your knees until they’re bent but keep your feet flat on the bed. Then put your hands behind your head, interlacing your fingers so your grip is secure.

Gently raise your shoulder blades, upper back and head. You should feel your abdominal muscles react. Hold in place for 10 to 30 seconds, then go down and repeat.

Start with two sets of 10 reps, then increase it to three sets. You can also do more reps when you’re more comfortable with this exercise. 

Leg Lifts

A leg lift works a senior’s quads, which can be especially helpful for those with knee issues or conditions. 

To do a leg lift, the starting position begins when you’re lying flat in bed. Keep your lower legs completely straight. Aim your toes towards your ceiling and flex your feet. Then, slowly, raise your right leg to a 45-degree angle, holding it up for a second or two.

Lower your right leg and repeat with your left leg.

Do three sets of 15 reps at the beginning, then 20 reps per set. Make sure you take a 30-second break from one set to another. 

Bridges

The bridge is a yoga move that should go into any senior’s fitness routine. It’s a fun way to stretch and tone the hips, buttocks, and core.

To do a bridge, start by lying flat in bed. Raise your knees until they’re bent and your feet are flat. Squeeze your stomach muscles and the muscles in your buttocks and then raise your hips up. Your body should make a triangular shape. 

bridging exercises to help build core muscles

Hold the position for a few seconds, then lower.

At the start, you might not be able to raise your hips very far, and that’s okay. Give it time and you’ll build more muscle strength. Eventually, you’ll pull off the bridge expertly well!

Hand Squeezes

Hand squeezes require a gripper, which is not the same as a weight. Instead, a gripper is a two-handled fitness device that you squeeze. Springs within the gripper allow it to flex when you apply pressure.

Keep the gripper on your bedside table, and each morning, start the day by squeezing it. At first, you might do five or 10 reps per hand, taking a long break in between. As you continue along, you’ll be able to do 20 or 30 reps.

Repeating hand squeezes can improve forearm, wrist, and hand strength, which might make a senior feel less clumsy. 

Push-Ups/Modified Planks

Although push-ups aren’t super easy to do, in bed, they’re moderately less challenging than trying to build upper body strength via exercises on a yoga mat on the floor.

Begin in a face-down position, but don’t lie down in bed. Instead, support yourself with your hands, which should be below your shoulders.

Raise up on your toes and push up with your arms until they’re straight. Remain in the plank position for a few seconds. Gently lower yourself down as far as you can go. Then slowly raise back up.

planking exercises to help build core muscles

That’s one push-up/plank. Repeat a few more times. 

If a standard push-up is too hard for a senior to do, there are plenty of variations. For instance, keeping your bottom half on the bed and holding your upper body in the plank position is a lot less physically demanding. 

Conclusion

The elderly need to get physical activity to maintain a healthy body for as long as possible. If they have limited mobility and can’t get to a gym, the next best thing for overall health is to do the above exercises in a bed. The soft surface of the mattress activates different muscles to maintain stability. Plus, many exercises are doable in bed.

We hope this article inspires the senior in your life to stay active as best they can! 

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