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Leg Strengthing Exercises After Being Bedridden

author image Melissa Sabo
Melissa Sabo is an occupational therapist who started writing professional guidebooks for all Flagship Rehabilitation employees in 2009. Specializing in applied therapy and exercise for non-medical readers, she also coauthored a manual on wheelchair positioning. She graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a Bachelor of Science in occupational therapy.
Leg Strengthing Exercises After Being Bedridden
A woman is working with a physiotherapist to strengthen her legs. Photo Credit: Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Wavebreak Media/Getty Images

Physicians prescribe bed rest at times when getting out of bed or bearing weight on your legs is detrimental to your health. You may be prescribed bed rest for a variety of issues such as suffering from severe illness, extreme hypertension -- high blood pressure -- or a fractured pelvis. Following your physician's recommendation for bed rest is vital for your recovery, and noncompliance can be life-threatening. However, after a period of bed rest you will require leg strengthening to resume your daily activities.

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Effects of Bed Rest

Although every person varies somewhat, generally it takes only four days of bed rest to cause significant reduction in muscle mass in your entire body, especially in your legs. Because you are not bearing weight on your legs, you will have increased weakness and may have difficulty even standing after your bed rest. Performing range-of-motion exercises with your legs while on bed rest, if allowed by your physician, can reduce the effects somewhat.

Initial Strengthening

Sit on the edge of the bed and pump your ankles up and down to increase circulation and warm up your muscles for a few minutes. Apply 1-pound ankle weight cuffs to your ankles to provide resistance for your exercise. Kick your legs up without lifting your thigh off the bed. March your knees up, and then return your feet to the floor, keeping your knees bent, to exercise your hips.

Additional Strengthening

Place a soft ball in between your knees and squeeze together to work your inner thighs. Wrap a resistance band around your lower thighs, and separate and close your legs to strengthen your outer thigh. Place a loop of the resistance band around the ball of your foot and pump your feet downward while holding the band above your foot, or bend your ankle upward while an assistant holds the band beneath you. Work your way up to completing each exercise 40 times. You strengthen further by adding more weight or a higher resistance to your band.

Functional Strengthening

Cycling on a recumbent bike can provide rehabilitation for poor endurance, which is also caused by bed rest. Moving your legs forward and backward on the bike, increasing the intensity and resistance over time, will work the majority of the muscles in your legs. Standing can also strengthen your muscles and prepare you for walking and using stairs. Performing standing exercises such as kicks, marches and ankle bends will significantly strengthen your muscles and can additionally target your stabilizing muscles.

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