The American Diabetes Association recommends 30 minutes of aerobic activity (such as a brisk walk) most days of the week, two to three strength-training sessions per week, and a couple of sessions per week devoted to exercises that improve flexibility and balance. If you have diabetes, all of the above can help lower blood glucose, keep your joints more flexible, and act as a mood booster. But you knew that.
What you may not know is that you can maintain an exercise routine even when physical activity is a challenge—say, you’re nursing an injury or chronic pain is making traditional exercise difficult. The seven moves on these pages are designed to help tone your major muscle groups and promote joint flexibility, all from your bed.
Before you give the workout a try, push your sheets and covers aside, and remove all but your regular pillow (you’ll need it for most of the moves). Do each of the following once or twice a day. Set a reminder on your phone—or the alarm on your nightstand. It’ll help hold you accountable.
Talk to your doctor before making any big changes to your exercise plan.
Sheri Colberg, PhD, is an exercise physiologist, professor emerita of exercise science at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, and author of 12 books, including Diabetes & Keeping Fit for Dummies.
1. Shoulder Shrugs
Targets: neck and shoulders
A. Lie on your back with your legs straight and arms by your sides. It’s okay to keep a pillow under the top of your head, but leave a little room for your shoulders to move.
B. Slowly raise your shoulders toward your ears and rotate them backward in a circular movement 10 to 15 times. Next, circle your shoulders forward 10 to 15 times. Rest for 30 to 60 seconds.
Repetitions: 2 to 3
2. Partial Snow Angels
Targets: shoulders, arms, and torso
A. Move your pillow out of the way and lie on your back with your legs straight. Rest your arms by your sides, palms facing your thighs.
B. Lift your arms an inch off the bed and sweep them out to each side until they extend straight out from your shoulders. Your body will form a T shape. Hold for a few seconds before returning to the starting position.
Repetitions: 10 to 15 For an added stretch, sweep your arms all the way over your head before returning to the starting position.
3. Reverse Push-Ups
Targets: shoulders, chest, and arms
A. Lie on your back with your knees bent at a 45-degree angle and feet hip-width apart. Keep your upper arms by your sides. Raise your forearms until they’re perpendicular to the bed, with elbows at a 90-degree angle and hands in fists.
B. Slowly raise your arms toward the ceiling until they are straight. Hold for a few seconds. Return to the starting position.
Repetitions: 10 to 15 For added resistance, hold a small weight or an 8-, 12-, or 16-ounce water bottle in each hand.
4. Hip Rolls
Targets: torso and hips
A. With your pillow under your head, lie on your back with your knees bent at a 45-degree angle and feet hip-width apart. Extend your arms to the sides.
B. Keeping your knees bent and arms straight, roll the lower half of your body to the right. Be sure to rotate from your waist; your top half should remain still. Hold for a few seconds. Return to the starting position, then repeat on the left side.
Repetitions: 10 to 15
5. Single-Leg Bridge
Targets: buttocks, lower back, hips, and thighs
A. Lie on your back with your knees bent at a 45-degree angle and feet hip-width apart. Keep your upper arms by your sides, forearms perpendicular to the bed and elbows at a 90-degree angle. Tighten your buttocks and push your hips upward. Your body will form a “bridge.”
B. Raise your right leg toward the ceiling to form a single-leg bridge. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds. Slowly return to the starting position. Repeat with your left leg.
Repetitions: 10 to 15
6. Side Rolls
Targets: full body
A. With your pillow under your head, lie on your back with your knees bent at a 45-degree angle and feet hip-width apart. Rest your elbows by your sides on the bed and hold your hands together on top of your belly.
B. Slowly turn your body (as much as possible) to the right, keeping your shoulders and hips aligned; let your torso do most of the work. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds. Roll back to the starting position. Repeat, turning your body to the left.
Repetitions: 10 to 15 Be careful not to rotate too far if you have lower back problems or osteoporosis.
7. Foot Circles
Targets: calves and ankles
A. Lie on your back with your legs straight and arms by your sides.
B. Bring your right knee toward your chest. Interlace your fingers behind your right thigh. Rotate your right foot clockwise 10 to 15 times. Then rotate counterclockwise 10 to 15 times. Switch legs and repeat.