It used to be normal for the doctor to prescribe bed rest for many illnesses. However, this advice is outdated today: Researchers have long known that prolonged bed rest often does more harm than good. Medical experts therefore recommend exercise even in the event of illness. But why is that so? And how do you manage to keep moving even in the case of more serious illnesses?
Does bed rest harm health?
Bed rest weakens the body and causes it to lose efficiency. Resting too long can have a negative effect on the circulation, muscles and lungs and even aggravate complaints.
Nevertheless: Who does not feel well, even if it is only because of a light infection, often prefers the bed rest. Many ill people try to sleep themselves healthy. But with it you reach not rarely the opposite.
The negative effects of bed rest become noticeable after just one or two days. Both the circulation and the musculature are affected: Blood prere drops, the likelihood of tension increases.
Lack of movement during illness: These negative consequences are imminent
Prolonged bed rest is not without effect on the body. The lack of movement can lead to the following symptoms, among others:
– stiff joints – flatulence – low blood prere – increased blood sugar levels – reduction in muscle mass
And not just after lying down for days or weeks on end. The first signs can appear after only 48 hours of bed rest. These usually include circulatory problems in particular. Patients become dizzy when they get up – there is a risk of fainting and falling. Flatulence or other digestive problems also become noticeable after just a short period of lying in bed. If the body is not loaded for a few days, this also has consequences for joints and muscles.
Bed rest as a danger: You should be aware of these risks
Lack of exercise during illness can lead to many complications – as lying down increases the risk of thrombosis (blood clots) and embolism. The reason: prolonged lying slows down the blood flow in the veins of the legs. Clots can form more easily. If the bloodstream now carries blood clots with it, they can travel to the lungs and cause embolisms there.
The lungs are at risk in yet another way. This is because people breathe much more shallowly when lying down. There is inadequate blood flow to the lungs. Thus leading to an increased risk of pneumonia. But the good news is that if you keep moving even during an illness, you can minimize these risk factors.
Is lying down for long periods of time outdated for diseases?
Studies indicate that bed rest is not always beneficial. For example, patients with back pain benefit from light exercise.
We also know today that long and strict bed rest is not at all appropriate for many diseases. Scientists at the University of Melbourne (Australia) have shown that stroke patients should start moving again as soon as possible.
They had observed over 70 stroke patients. They found that one in three patients who were moving again one day after the stroke could be discharged home. Additional rehab measures were not necessary. Among those who maintained prolonged bed rest, this was true for only one in four patients. In addition, the researchers observed that concomitant symptoms such as thrombosis, pneumonia and circulatory problems occurred 50 percent less frequently in those who quickly resumed exercise (Bernhardt et al., 2015).
Another classic case for which bed rest was almost always prescribed in the past is back pain. Here, too, the advice is outdated – unfortunately, there are still doctors who prescribe bed rest. The consequences are serious, because this medically prescribed rest can make the pain worse. It is much better and more beneficial to exercise moderately but regularly. You strengthen your back muscles in this way. For example, depending on your condition, you can go for a slow walk, but also ride a bike.
What are the benefits of exercise during illness??
Exercise during illness can help reduce high blood prere and blood sugar levels – this is very beneficial for diabetics, for example. In addition, physical activity alleviates osteoarthritis and prevents obesity.
Another plus: By being moderately active even during an illness, you prevent the disadvantages of bedriddenness described above. Your muscles stay strong. Your performance capacity is maintained. This not only improves the quality of life, but also provides the brain with a welcome change from lying down.
It does not matter what kind of sport you do. Gentle exercise in the gym is just as much an option as going for a walk. It is important that exercise is tailored to your individual condition and treatment. These are the three reasons to stay moderately active even when you are sick.
1. Reduce high blood prere with physical activity
Sport is not only suitable for the prevention of high blood prere. Even if you already suffer from high levels of pain, you will benefit from exercise. Exercise helps, for example, to counteract vascular calcification (arteriosclerosis) – making the walls of the blood vessels more elastic. In addition, the walls of the blood vessels are wider, which also lowers blood prere.
Endurance training and weight training are particularly suitable for patients with high blood prere. However, make sure that the intensity is correct so that you do not put too much strain on your body and heart. Suitable sports besides Nordic walking are. Cycling for example also swimming.
2. Exercise with diabetes: a way to lower blood glucose levels
It's not only poor nutrition and obesity that promote type 2 diabetes. Lack of exercise is also one of the main causes. This is why affected people should exercise regularly. Because physical activity can lower blood glucose levels. After exercise, glucose metabolism is improved for up to 48 hours. Experts therefore recommend that diabetics do not abstain from exercise for more than two days.
Did you already know? Sufficient exercise can even enable diabetics to reduce the dosage of their medication. However, the change should always be made in consultation with a doctor.
3. Bed rest or exercise in cancer?
Exercise can reduce the risk of developing cancer. Physical activity strengthens the immune system so that it can recognize cell changes in the body at an early stage.
But even if cancer has already been diagnosed, exercise should not be completely abandoned. If you continue to do moderate endurance training or weight training during therapy, this can help you to cope better with the side effects of the treatment.
ImportantOf course, you should adapt the sport to your individual capacity, so that you do not overstrain your body.
How to stay fit even in bed?
Even bedridden people should not completely avoid exercise. Walking short distances indoors or sitting upright in bed are activities that have health-promoting effects and keep the muscles supple.
Still, there are medical conditions that require strict bed rest – possibly even for longer than a week. This is the case after a heart attack as well as after a lung disease, after falls or other injuries, and after a fresh thrombosis. In the case of feverish illnesses, you will probably also be more in the mood for bed rest than for exercise. But even in these situations, the following applies: You should move – as much as your state of health allows.
NoteDiscuss with your doctor whether you are allowed to exercise. As a rule, it is possible for you to take a few steps a day even in severe cases of illness.
For example, refrain from eating meals in bed. Get up, walk to the table and eat there. So you've got yourself some exercise again.
Strengthen muscles while lying down
You can also do a lot for your muscles while lying down. How about gymnastics for the leg muscles? To do this, simply pull the tips of your toes towards your body while lying on your back. This is how you build up muscle tension, which you can hold for ten seconds. Then release the tension. Repeat the exercise a total of ten times. You can do this small exercise over and over again, preferably at least in the morning and evening. By the way, this is also an effective way to reduce your risk of thrombosis.
Make sure you take in enough oxygen to avoid pneumonia, for example. To do this, stand (or, if you can't, sit) in front of an open window and breathe as deeply as you can at least ten times in a row.
TipIf you really have to lie down for a long time, a leg trainer from a sports shop could be a good purchase. These are two pedals with which you can ride a bicycle. You can also use the small device in bed.
Already knew? If you have to stay at home because of an infection, you can still exercise normally during the day. Only if you feel really sick and tired, suffer from headaches and dizziness or have a fever, you should stay in bed for one or two days.
Tips for more exercise during illness
To stay active during an illness, you don't necessarily have to go to the gym. Small exercises are often enough to get the body moving again. For example, try the following tips:
– Use a crumple ball to strengthen muscles in your arms and hands – Activate your circulation by sitting up on the edge of the bed – If you are in the hospital, you can pull yourself up by the triangle handle above the bed – Stimulate your circulation by taking a shower – If possible, avoid bed bottles, commode chairs and other aids and use the toilet in the bathroom
Depending on the ailments, proper sport units can be too strenuous for the body. Therefore, it is important to incorporate small activities into your (illness) daily routine. How to keep your muscles active. Get back on your feet quickly after illness.
Physical activity is essential even when you are sick
Those who are ill often just want to take it easy. On the one hand, this is also true, yet bed rest should be interrupted by small activities now and then. Otherwise, the lack of exercise can have negative consequences for the body – these range from minor ailments to muscle atrophy and problems with the heart to thrombosis.
Depending on the level of fitness, different sporting activities are suitable for sick people. Those who feel mostly fit can do light endurance training such as Nordic walking or cycling. Often a short walk is enough to get the circulation going again. And even those who have to stay in bed can do something good for their own body. Light exercises such as targeted muscle tightening allow a certain amount of movement even when bedridden. Trampoline Workout Endurance. Train your strength at the same time? An impossibility – so the widespread opinion. But it's possible: with a piece of sports equipment that folds flat enough to fit under your… ' read more
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