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Preventing Deconditioning - Supporting your recovery and return home

Being in hospital can make it easier to just stay in bed, but lying down all day can have significant effects on your health, wellbeing and recovery from illness. Long periods of time lying in bed can make your muscles weaker and the longer you stay in bed, the harder it may be to get up and do the things you would usually do at home.

It’s important that you stay active, independent and move regularly during your hospital stay. Our nursing teams are here to help and we will work together with you and your family to help you stay active and go home, when it’s safe to do so.

Why it’s important to stay active during your hospital stay

Deconditioning occurs when a person loses the ability to do everyday tasks over a period of time and many elderly people experience this during and after a stay in hospital.

Between 30% and 50% of older patients can show a rapid decline in their ability to perform routine activities such as getting out of bed, going to the toilet and getting dressed. Up to 50% can become incontinent within 48 hours of admission and up to 10% of inpatients experience reduced muscle strength and other effects such as reduced dignity, confidence, independence and choice. Getting up and out of bed during your hospital stay can help prevent some of the effects of deconditioning.

Deconditioning can have a longstanding, negative effect on patients. Research shows that frail older patients admitted to hospital can experience functional decline very quickly if they don’t remain active and independent during their hospital stay, and this can have a significant effect on their length of stay and eventual discharge from hospital. It can also result in some patients needing to be readmitted to hospital for further treatment.

Deconditioning can adversely affect your health and wellbeing

Staying in bed and not moving can mean it takes longer to recover from illness. It can also lead to other health problems including:

  • Issues with your breathing.
  • It can break down your skin and result in bed sores.
  • It can predispose you to blood clots in your lungs.
  • Your muscles may lose strength and you can become weaker.
  • You may feel tired more easily.
  • You may lose your independence. For example, the ability to wash or dress yourself.
  • You might not be able to digest food properly meaning you suffer from stomach ache or constipation.
  • You may get confused.

You can help speed up your recovery by staying as active as possible whilst in hospital. Moving around, whether in or out of bed, helps to strengthen your muscles and keeps your body strong. It will help you get better faster and also means that you will have less chance of problems when you go home. 

Keep on moving – What you can do to stay well during your hospital stay

Staying active can help you recover from illness and get you home more quickly. Hospital isn’t always the best place to be and staying as active as possible while you are in hospital can help you maintain your muscle strength and help you get better faster. If you need any advice or a walking aid to help you stay mobile, our nursing team can provide any help and support you need.

Ways you can stay active

There are several ways that you can stay active and help your recovery during your stay in hospital including:

  • Sit up – either in or out of bed for meals or when you have visitors.
  • Get up and out of bed if you can and have a walk around the ward. Use your walking stick or frame if you have to or ask for assistance if you need it.
  • Try to maintain your usual routine by getting up, having a wash and getting dressed in your normal clothes.
  • Eat or drink on your own if you are able to do so.
  • If you can’t get out of bed, try and move around and change position often. Ask our nursing or therapy team if there are any exercises you can to do in bed.
  • Keep your mind active by listening to music, reading a book or doing a puzzle.
  • Do some gentle exercises on your own throughout the day, in bed or in a chair, if you’re able to do so. Our team can advise you on some suitable exercises if you’re not sure.

Benefits of staying active during your hospital stay

Staying active during your hospital stay can have many benefits including:

  • It can mean less pain and confusion.
  • It can reduce the likelihood of bed sores.
  • It can result in less falls or dizziness.
  • It can result in better mood and sleep.
  • It can help you fight infection.
  • It can make it easier to cope and return to normal when you go home.

Some movement is better than none. Every little bit of activity can help you stay well. If you’re not sure what is safe for you to do, please speak to the nursing team. Please tell them what you were able to do before you come into hospital. This will help them to understand how best to support you and help you stay active whilst you’re in hospital and when you go home.

Advice for families and carers of people needing ongoing support

Families and carers have a vital role to play in encouraging and helping their loved ones to stay active and recover from illness. During your relative’s stay in hospital, you can help support their recovery by encouraging them to sit up or get out of bed when you come to visit. Encouraging them to get up, get dressed and out of bed can help them to stay independent, maintain their muscle strength and recover more quickly from illness.

Our nursing teams are here to help and we can work together with you and your loved one to ensure that you get the care and support you need in hospital and when the time is right for them to go home or onto ongoing care in the community.

Where can I find more information about deconditioning?

If you have any questions, please speak to a member of our nursing team, who will be happy to help you. You can also find more information in the patient leaflets below.

Patient Leaflet – Preventing Deconditioning – How to Prevent Hospital Related Deconditioning

Patient Leaflet - British Geriatric Society – Staying Active In Hospital

British Geriatrics Society – Deconditioning Syndrome Poster

Get in touch

Chorley and South Ribble Hospital

Preston Road



01257 261222

Royal Preston Hospital

Sharoe Green Lane




01772 716565

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