Bed-Based Exercises


Exercise does not have to be difficult to provide lasting benefits. Bed-based exercises are good alternatives to physical activity for individuals struggling or unable to get out of bed. It is also beneficial if exercising is difficult due to chronic pain conditions.


Low-impact exercises, including bed-based, minimize the stress placed on the joints. Benefits also include increasing flexibility, maintaining full range of motion, strengthening muscles, promoting heart health, and helping joints absorb shock better. Because most mattresses provide a slightly unstable surface, bed-based exercises are excellent for strengthening the core and improving balance. Bed-based exercises can work a variety of muscles throughout the body.

Bed-based exercise examples

Examples of bed-based exercises include the following:

  • Leg raises. Begin by lying flat on the back with the legs extended. Tighten the leg and core muscles and slowly lift one leg several inches off the mattress, while keeping the leg straight. Hold for five seconds, then slowly lower the leg. Repeat a minimum of four times per leg.
  • Half-bridge. Lie flat with the knees bent, feet flat on the bed, and legs approximately hip width apart. Lift the tailbone until the shoulders, hips, and knees are in a straight line. Using muscles in the glute and core, hold this position for 30 seconds before slowly releasing back down to the mattress. Repeat a minimum of three times.
  • Reverse crunches. Lie on the back with the arms by the sides, palms down. Keep the legs straight and slowly engage the muscles in the core to lift the legs up toward the head as far as possible without the lower back arching off the mattress. If this is too difficult, try it by bending the knees at a 90-degree angle instead of keeping them straight. The goal is to eventually complete three sets of 10 crunches.
  • Forearm plank. Lie on the stomach and align the elbows under the shoulders. Push off the mattress with the weight on either the toes or knees, forming a straight line from head to knees or head to toes. Hold this position for 20 seconds if possible and repeat three times with a 30-second break in between.
  • Hamstring stretch. Lie flat on the bed with both knees bent. Bring one knee toward the chest, keeping the leg bent. Grasp the back of the thigh with the hands before straightening the leg. Additional stretch can be achieved by pulling the straight leg toward the head. After holding for 30 to 60 seconds, slowly bend the knee and release the leg back to the bed before raising the other leg.

Gentle stretches should follow bed-based exercises to prevent tightening of the muscles. For additional and easy bed exercises, check out Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust.