Exercises to Improve Bed Mobility

Improve Bed Mobility with Physical Therapy Exercises

Elderly woman being helped in bed.
Your physical therapist can help improve your bed mobility. Blend Images - JGI/Tom Grill/ Getty Images

The ability to move around in bed is called bed mobility. If you have an illness or injury and are having difficulty with functional mobility, you may require physical therapy to help improve your bed mobility.

Your physical therapist can work with you - in the clinic, in the hospital, or at home - to maximize your bed mobility. He or she may prescribe specific exercises to help improve the way you are able to scoot, roll, and sit up or lie down on your bed.

If you or a loved one is having difficulty moving in bed, check in with your doctor to get started on the right treatment for you. A visit to your physical therapist may be in order to learn exercises - like the ones in this step-by-step program - to improve your bed mobility and to get back to your normal activity level.

Before starting this, or any other exercise program, check in with your doctor to ensure that exercise is safe for you to do.

Ready? Let's get started.

Gluteal Sets to Improve Bed Mobility

Elderly woman in a hospital bed.
The gluteal set exercise is easy: simply squeeze your butt muscles. David Sacks / Getty Images

The gluiteal set is a simple exercise to do that can get your buttock muscles working after a period of bed rest. It may also be done after surgery to keep blood moving to prevent blood clots.

To perform the gluteal set, lie on your back in bed and squeeze your buttocks, as if you were holding back flatulence. Squeeze your buttock muscles (called the gluteals or glutes) and hold them squeezed for 5 seconds. Relax slowly and repeat the exercise for 10 repetitions.

Hip Adduction Squeeze

Strong hip muscles are essential to improving the way you are able to move in bed. The hip adduction squeeze is a great isometric exercise that can improve the function of your groin muscles to help improve your bed mobility.

To perform the hip adduction squeeze, obtain a ball or rolled up bath towel. Lie on your back with your knees bent and a ball between them. Tighten your stomach muscles, and then gently squeeze the ball or towel. Hold the squeeze for 5 seconds, and then slowly relax.

Repeat the hip adduction ball squeeze for 10 repetitions, and then go on to the next exercise for bed mobility.

Low Trunk Rotation to Improve Rolling in Bed

The ability to roll in bed is important to help you safely get up out of bed in the morning. To improve your rolling ability, perform the low trunk rotation exercise. Here's how you do it:

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent.
  • Slowly and gently roll your knees to one side.
  • Be sure to keep your shoulders flat as your knees roll.
  • Bring your knees back to the starting position, and then roll to the opposite side.
  • Repeat for 10 repetitions.

If you feel any back pain as the result of the low trunk rotation exercise, stop the exercise and check in with your doctor.

Straight Leg Raise to Improve Bed Mobility

Straight leg raise with an cuff weight around the ankle.
The straight leg raise exercise can help improve bed mobility. Brett Sears, PT, 2013

The straight leg raise exercise can help improve the strength of your hip muscles to help keep you moving in bed. To do the exercise, lie on your back with one knee bent and one knee straight. Tighten the muscles on the top of your thigh in the straight leg, and slowly lift your leg up about 12 inches. Hold this position for 2 seconds, and then slowly lower your straight leg down.

Repeat for 10 repetitions for each leg.

The straight leg raise exercise can be made more challenging by adding a cuff weight to your thigh or ankle, thus increasing the resistance. You can also perform the straight leg raise on your side or stomach to strengthen the muscles in the back and side of your hips. Your physical therapist can show you how to properly perform all of the straight leg raising exercises.


Engage your abdominals and slowly lift your buttocks up. Brett Sears, 2011

 The bridge exercise is a great way to strengthen the muscles that help you scoot in bed. To perform the bridge, lie on your back with both knees bent. Engage your abdominal muscles, and then slowly lift your buttocks off the bed. Be sure to keep your pelvis level as you lift - no tipping.

Hold the raised bridge position for 2 seconds, and then slowly lower yourself down. Repeat the bridge for 10 repetitions.

The bed mobility exercises can be performed 2 to 3 times per day, and they can be done right in bed to help you improve the way you can move while lying down.

If you are having difficulty with bed mobility, check with your doctor and then with your physical therapist. He or she can teach you specific bed mobility exercises to help improve your overall functional mobility and your ability to move about in bed.

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