Start by moving in bed or sitting on a chair

When you can’t move very well to exercise on “dry land,” then consider starting in the water:  the shower, a tub, or local therapy pool while holding onto something very sturdy and wearing water shoes for your safety.*

When you can’t move very well to exercise at all, we can start right where we are in a chair or bed!*

What can you do that will make a difference when lying in bed or sitting on a chair?  Palenty!  Try these gentle movements to help keep the complications of inactivity away (like muscle wasting, blood clots, and deconditioning, oh my!).*

exercise in bed, overhead reach, stretch, before you get out of bed, bedridden, bed bound, stretch

  • Lightly stroke or massage your arms, your legs, your tummy, your feet, your hands, your face, your neck, and shoulders.
  • Take a few deep breaths such that your belly puffs out and rib cage expands to the side (not up and down).  Breathe in slow-and-low if possible.  (See HERE for more information on breathing techniques.)
  • Reach up towards the ceiling/wall, out to the sides, and down a few times each.  Don’t force any movements or bounce your arms.  Everything should be slow and controlled TO but not THROUGH the point of discomfort.
  • Copy the same movements with your legs, one at a time even if a few inches off of the bed or chair when first starting out.
  • Bend and straighten the arms at every joint as tolerated:  elbows, wrists, fingers.  Rotate the wrists; turn the palms up then turn them down.
  • Bend and straighten the legs at every joint as tolerated:  knees, ankles, toes.  Rotate the ankles; turn the feet in towards one another then away from one another.
  • If there are no back pain spinal, or disc issues, gently roll your hips side to side then hike them up and down a few times.*
  • Pump your ankles against the floor then your legs (as if marching, yes even if in bed by sliding your heels up towards you then away from you).
  • Get out of bed, stand up using your legs, and go get a drink of water.  You’ve done it and you’re done!  Congratulations!

* Please consult with a healthcare practitioner who knows you well before beginning any exercise program to determine if it is right for your needs.  Follow any recommended restrictions or precautions over and above these Active Tips and check our Disclaimer for more information.


Taking a Time Out to Breeeeeathe!

According to the Harvard Medical School Mental Health Newsletter, “Proper breathing goes by many names. You may have heard it called diaphragmatic breathing, abdominal breathing, or belly breathing. When you breathe deeply, the air coming in through your nose fully fills your lungs, and you will notice that your lower belly rises. The ability to breathe so deeply and powerfully is not limited to a select few. This skill is inborn but often lies dormant. Reawakening it allows you to tap one of your body’s strongest self-healing mechanisms.”

How about rejuvenating your day with 2 minutes of some simple, yet effective breathing techniques?*  I often incorporated breathing into my occupational therapy visits with patients of all ages and for me too, in between things. See which one you like and let me know, k?  Take care, Julie, O.T.

Breathing Techniques


  1. Pursed-lip breathing. Inhale through your nose like you are smelling flowers and blow out of your mouth like you are blowing out candles.
  1. Diaphragmatic breathing. Lie on your back.  Place a book on your stomach and make it rise and fall with each breath.  Or, sit or stand in front of a mirror and breathe in with expansion of the abdomen.
  1. Lower rib breathing. Place your hands on either side of the lower section of the rib cage.  Breathe in and out.  Provide light resistance with your hands when breathing out.  Release when breathing in to allow the ribs to expand more.
  1. Triangular breathing. While keeping your mouth open the whole time, breathe in deeply for 5 seconds, hold for 5 seconds then breathe out slow and long through pursed-lips for 10 seconds.
  1. Breathing with relaxation techniques. Practice breathing techniques in a relaxing environment while listening to instrumental music or nature sounds on tape, CD, or IPOD.  Or, tense (7-10 seconds) and relax (20-40 seconds) various muscle groups.  Or use visualization of a specific place to allow for a “time out” or chance to refocus while breathing.


Quote is from:

Techniques 1,2,3, & 5 are from ”Breathing retraining and relaxation techniques for clients with pulmonary disease,”  by Joyce Ford & Faye H. Weaver, June 19, 2000, OT Practice, pp. 33-34.

*Please check our Disclaimer before beginning any breathing or exercise program.