Female caregiver helps elderly man sit up in bed to do an exercise.

Simple Bed Exercises for Seniors

Last updated on September 29, 2021

One of the best ways seniors can improve their health and well-being is through regular exercise at the appropriate intensity. But for seniors who are bedbound, an exercise routine may seem impossible.

Bed exercises can come in handy.

Seniors—or others with severe mobility limitations—can perform these simple exercises from the comforts of bed.

Bed exercises provide many health benefits, including:

  • Cognitive and mood enhancements
  • A more robust immune system
  • Weight management
  • Muscle mass
  • Flexibility
  • Prevention of bedsores
  • Manage or prevention of chronic diseases, such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease

Types of Bed Exercises for Seniors

Many types of bed exercises—with or without light weights or resistance bands—are available for seniors that target various parts of the body. Some popular ones include:

  • Overhead shoulder flexion (shoulder flexibility)
    Lie on your back and keep your legs straight. Hold your hands together or hold a light object such as a pillow, and place your hands on top of your abdomen. Keep your stomach tight and slowly raise your hands over your head or as far as they will go. Hold for 30 seconds. Return your hands to their starting position. Make sure your elbows are straight and your back is flat.
  • Knee-to-chest lift (lower body flexibility)
    Lying flat on your back, bring one knee up to your chest. Use your hands to gently pull your knee closer to your chest until you feel a stretching sensation. Hold for 30 seconds and return your leg to the starting position. Repeat with the other leg.

  • Straight leg lift (leg and core strength)
    Lie flat on your back with one leg straight and the other knee bent with your foot on the mattress. Keep your stomach tight and lift the straight leg six to eight inches above the mattress, then return it to its starting position. Repeat with the other leg.
  • Neck stretches (neck flexibility)
    Lie flat on your back, keeping your shoulders steady. Bring your left ear towards your left shoulder until you feel a stretching sensation in your neck for 30 seconds. You may choose to use your hand to gently hold the side of your head in place for an additional stretch. Return to a neutral position and repeat on the other side.
  • Hand exercises (grip strength)
    Hold a soft object, such as a pillow or exercise putty. Squeeze firmly for 10 to 15 seconds, then release. Repeat.
  • Supine marches (core strength)
    Lie flat on your back with your knees bent and feet on the mattress. Keep your fingertips resting on your pelvis and tighten your stomach. Lift one knee towards your chest about one or two inches, and then relax. Repeat with the other leg.
  • Lower trunk rotation (flexibility and ability to turn over in bed)
    Lie flat on your back with your knees bent and feet on the mattress. Keep your back straight. Slowly bring both knees down and to the left as far as you can (like you’re trying to touch the mattress). Return to a neutral position and repeat toward the other side.
  • Bridge (core strength and ability to turn over in bed)
    Lie flat on your back with your knees bent and feet on the mattress. Tighten your stomach, squeeze your buttocks together, and then lift your hips as high as they can go. This may take your back off the mattress and require you to support some of your weight with your arms and shoulders. Hold for a few seconds, and then lower. Repeat.

Bed Exercise Safety

Seniors should perform bed exercises—and all exercises—at the appropriate intensity. Ask a doctor which ones are the best for your senior and how often they should exercise. The doctor may even suggest you work with a physical therapist.

Bed exercises shouldn’t be painful. If your senior complains of any pain, stop them from exercising and consult a doctor.

Home Care Can Help Seniors Exercise

Bedbound seniors may need encouragement or assistance from family members, friends, or a professional caregiver. A Visiting Angels senior care provider can encourage seniors to achieve their exercise goals and ensure their safety and comfort while exercising.

Contact us today! Our home care coordinators are available to discuss your senior’s needs via a free home care consultation.

If you're interested in our compassionate home care services for you or a loved one, contact your nearest Visiting Angels home care agency today or call 800-365-4189.
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