The hospital is the last place someone may think of when it comes to keeping active. Yet it is one of the most important places to make sure your parents keep moving. Without moving around during a hospital stay, people can experience a deconditioning of their muscles and overall fitness, often referred to by professionals as detraining. A lack of exercise in one hospital stay can lead to more problems later.
According to Health Services at Columbia University, when someone who is used to getting exercise stops, he or she can lose up to 80% of any fitness gains in only two weeks of not being physically active. If your parent spends a week in the hospital and doesn’t get any physical activity, he or she can leave with a worse fitness level than when going in. This is because while people are physically active their body produces more enzymes that help the muscles to be maintained and grow. If they stop being physically active, the enzymes break down and this leads to muscle atrophy. A hospital stay is indeed a place where the term “use it or lose it” can be applied. The elderly who are physically active simply by doing things around the house on a regular basis can have a significant decline in health from a lack of movement while in the hospital.
Staying active in the hospital
The National Institute on Aging reports that there are many good reasons to maintain physical activity. It is especially important to make sure that seniors and the elderlty get physical activity because their fitness level can decline quickly and they may have a hard time bringing it back up. Remaining active in the hospital is essential to help prevent detraining. The effects of exercise are also instrumental in:
- Reducing the risks of falling by keeping muscles strong
- Getting better sleep
- Decreasing pain from arthritis
- Avoiding weakening the bone and muscle
- Helping the heart and lungs to work well
- Preventing blood clots by improving blood flow
- Improving mental state
- Promoting and maintaining independence
Getting started to beat deconditioning
Even for those in a hospital bed, it is important to stay physically active. Many hospitals today have wellness centers that offer exercise classes and suggestions for getting physical activity at the hospital. Check with your parent’s doctor and the wellness center to see what arrangements can be made. Additionally, it’s easy for patients to get some exercise by getting out of the room to walk the hall if cleared to do so by their doctor. Be sure to discuss this with the doctor and insist on physical therapy, if appropriate.
Your parents can also get some exercise right in their room by doing wall push-ups, sit-ups, bicep curls, chair squats, and shoulder shrugs, all ideal choices for the elderly, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. Another good option is to get an in-home walking exercise DVD, such as those by Leslie Sansone. Seniors can easily do the marching in place right there next to the bed. If the room does not have a DVD player, bringing a portable one would be good option. Just be sure to get the doctor’s approval before engaging in any physical activity routine while in the hospital. Helping to keep your parents physically active during hospital stays should help them maintain their independence upon discharge.