Suggestions for gentle exercises after period of bed rest
June 30, 2015 5:43 AM   Subscribe

I need advice about very gentle exercises and reconditioning after a long period of bed rest. I have a heart condition and have been very inactive for years. Recently my heart problem got somewhat better. Now I can do very light exercises. But even very gentle exercise can be a problem for me. I need advice about reconditioning safely. Also I would like suggestions for websites, books or other resources for people recovering after long periods of bed rest who are severely deconditioned.

Since my heart function has improved, I've been doing light activity like cooking and cleaning. This doesn't seem to be a problem for my heart, but now the muscles in my back ache all the time. So making my core stronger is my first priority. Of course I'd eventually like to make my whole body stronger, too.

My friend suggested that I try the Superman exercise. I only held the position for 5 seconds, not 30. The first day I did three sets of three reps each. The next day I felt fine, so I did two sets of three reps each.

That night I pulled a muscle and the next day I woke up exhausted from my heart condition and had to rest for two days.

I tell this story to emphasize that I need REALLY gentle exercise! I gave myself a week to recover from that and now I am doing the Superman exercise once a day, for five seconds. This seems to be OK. I'm going to very, very slowly increase the reps.

I would like:
a) Any advice on reconditioning for someone who is severely deconditioned
b) Suggestions for very gentle exercises to build core strength
c) Resources like books or websites for people in my position
posted by Cinnamon Bear to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
A physio at a hospital will be able to give you a specific routine. Mine got me to not count distance but time - gently pushing for ten minutes if it took me that to walk across the room one day and another day to walk down the stairs, it was the same amount of exercise.

I found getting up to make a cup of tea helped because then I also had to get up to go pee, and repeat cycle. Then I started putting things further away from my bed. Also just getting dressed even if I didn't get out of bed or the house that day was a physical effort of dexterity and a motivation to move more.

The single best factor was my dog. Others walked her when I couldn't but she is so thrilled when I walk her, even for short slow walks that I found myself able to make those trips more and more.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 6:30 AM on June 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

Please see a phyiscal therapist if you can. This is what they do!

There are some gentle exercises on this page. You might look into trying one of these:
7 - Airplaning (leave your arms down in place to make it easier)
2 - Tabletop
5 - Forearm plank
posted by zennie at 6:36 AM on June 30, 2015

If it's at all possible, yes, you would do so much better with a physical therapist to help guide you through this.

I would also suggest some sort of pedometer -- I liked the Fitbit (it's all automatic) but there are less spendy options. That way you can track how many steps you're getting in by cooking, cleaning, etc. and slooooooowly increase them over time.
posted by pie ninja at 6:58 AM on June 30, 2015

You can start out doing quite a few simple exercises while seated in a chair. It's less stressful for your body, and since you're building up from bed rest it seems like a logical interim step.

I also nth the suggestion to see a PT.
posted by phunniemee at 6:59 AM on June 30, 2015

After heart surgery the plan the cardiologist gave me was for walking:

Day 1: two 5 minute walks
Day 2: two 10 minute walks
Day 3: one 15 minute walk
Day 4: one 20 minute walk
Day 5: one 25 minute walk
Continue increasing by 5 minutes each day until reaching ~45 minutes.

It was extremely gentle, but worked.
posted by pickles_have_souls at 7:16 AM on June 30, 2015

You really can't beat walking for reconditioning. It may not seem so, but after a long period of bed rest, even walking will improve your core strength -- it's all about stabilizing your body as it moves through space. As your endurance improves you can get a better training stimulus for your core by walking over varied terrain, as on a dirt path or over grass.
posted by telegraph at 7:19 AM on June 30, 2015 [4 favorites]

I also suggest seeing a PT. I like this book on Stretching and would suggest getting it out of the library. You might also look to see if there is a Yoga for Seniors class around which can be good for people with various mobility/stamina issues even if you don't fit the age profile.
posted by jessamyn at 9:02 AM on June 30, 2015

Definitely see a PT, if you can. Also, my YMCA has personal trainers who are specifically trained in this kind of rehabilitative work; I have seen them working with people where they have their clients, say, walk on the treadmill at 1 mile an hour for 90 seconds. You might try seeing if your local YMCA has something similar.
posted by KathrynT at 9:50 AM on June 30, 2015

Response by poster: Thanks everyone, for the suggestions. I'm totally housebound and can't possibly go to a PT. Also, just to give some perspective here, I think this:

Day 1: two 5 minute walks
Day 2: two 10 minute walks
Day 3: one 15 minute walk
Day 4: one 20 minute walk
Day 5: one 25 minute walk

would put me in bed for days after day 1. I really appreciate the suggestion, but I just want to make it clear how seriously impaired I still am.

I also should have specified that it's very difficult for me to stay upright, whether sitting or standing. But it's a quirk of my condition that walking is safer than sitting upright or standing still. I have been doing very short walks around my apartment, so I think increasing those slowly is a great idea. Also I have been doing light stretching and that seems to be safe for me.

I will look at the exercises Zinnie mentioned and the book on stretching Jessamyn mentioned.
posted by Cinnamon Bear at 10:13 AM on June 30, 2015

Given that it's hard to stay upright, I'd recommend this book.

She's a PT, and it can be a pain to constantly reference the book while trying to do the exercises, but even that is doable, and all of the exercises in the first section are done on a mat (no sitting or standing, and she gives tips for what to do if you're not able to do what's described).

Disregard Amazon comments about the fact that she looks pregnant. She was in fact pregnant when that edition was made, and she says so in the book, but apparently people don't read.

It's all about core strength and allows for the bare minimum a body can handle.
posted by whoiam at 1:03 PM on June 30, 2015

Oops. The book I recommended is geared toward women. I just realized I don't know how you identify, but I strongly suspect that most of the exercises would be helpful regardless of gender.
posted by whoiam at 1:20 PM on June 30, 2015

Response by poster: I am female, I'll check it out.
posted by Cinnamon Bear at 5:17 PM on June 30, 2015

Best answer: I was going to suggest wheelchair exercises, but you said you had difficulty staying upright, even when sitting. How about in-bed or bedbound exercises? Maybe a lighter version of this video: In-Bed Exercises for Everyday Strength.

Better yet: I found a website of rehab exercises for people who have been ill or bedbound for a long time. For instance, most of the Stage 1 execises are done while lying in bed. (And I just realized that one of the people involved is Jack LaLanne!)
posted by bentley at 6:38 PM on June 30, 2015

Response by poster: Bentley, thank you, that website really seems appropriate for my level of illness.
posted by Cinnamon Bear at 7:19 PM on June 30, 2015

Can the PT come to you? Do what you can on your own, but if you find yourself frustrated or backsliding, it might be worth calling around to see if there any visiting services that have PT/OT on staff.
posted by epanalepsis at 6:24 AM on July 1, 2015

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