Bed rest worsen muscle health: strategies to avoid it during the hospitalization

Picture of a smiling older adult performing harm curl with little weight

The bed rest and the physical inactivity associated with hospitalization or illness, represent an important threat to the muscles and their function.

Physical inactivity during the hospitalization is generally considered to be a normal patient experience, but it clearly contributes to a series of negative health outcomes (i.e. reducing the ability to perform daily living activities, and increasing the risk of new hospitalizations).

While for some types of hospitalized patients and for a limited period of time, bed rest is indicated, it is wrong to keep all patients in bed without a clear medical indication.

Aging is normally associated with muscle reduction, therefore, age itself is one of the causes of reduced physical inactivity in the elderly. Despite this, it has been seen that bed rest can accelerate muscle loss.

Therefore, with aging increases the possibility that even a brief period of bed rest can begin a serious decline in muscle strength and function, leading to a "point of no return", from which some may not completely recover. Furthermore, a pre-existing condition of sarcopenia (i.e. progressive loss of muscle, strenght and power) can worsen the outcomes of bed rest.

Here is a short list of approaches proposed to counteract muscle loss and function in bedridden patients:

• always consume protein at meals (i.e. meat, fish, or cheese);

• perform habitual resistance exercise (e.g. single leg extension with or without a little weight at the ankle, rising from a chair), preferably near meals.

LINK TO THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE :   English K.L. and Paddon-Jones D. “Protecting muscle mass and function in older adults during bed rest”. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2010;13(1):34-9.