Caucasian elderly woman awake in bed with text "Effects of Bed Rest"

Bed rest is a common recommendation for both injury and illness, and can play an important part in healing. But there is a side of bed rest we don’t often consider. The human body is made to move, and multiple problems quickly start to set in even after a couple of days of immobility. These negative effects are often referred to as “deconditioning” of the body, and can have a serious impact on health. Studies show that bed rest can lead to weakening of muscle mass in patients of all ages. A normal muscle, at complete rest, in the absence of illness, loses up to 15% of its strength each week. On average, it takes 2.5 weeks of rigorous exercise to regain the strength lost from one week of bed rest.

Bed rest can be especially problematic for those of us age 67 and up. We lose strength faster during bed rest, losing more lean tissue. In fact, once we are age 67+, inactivity causes us to lose muscle mass 3x faster than when we were young adults, and we have to work harder to build it back. The good news is that regaining that strength is a very realistic goal for most.

Physical therapy can help with a safe exercise program designed to get us out of bed and back to our normal self. Sometimes we refrain from activity from fear of pain or getting injured again. If we find ourselves dealing with a new condition such as cardiac disease, we may be afraid of exercising at all. Our treatments aid in building confidence as well as strength.

If a loved one has suffered a recent injury or illness that’s keeping them down, contact us. We’ll help them get back up in the safest, most efficient fashion.

Sources: Kortebein P, Ferrando A, Lombeida J, et al. Effect of 10 days of bed rest on skeletal muscle in healthy older adults. JAMA. 2007; 297 (16): 1772-1774.

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