We just passed 1 year since Teddy’s last inpatient stay in September! Whoohoo!
So, fortunately, I haven’t had to exercise in a hospital in over a year. But I’ve certainly had plenty of times when I needed to.
Exercising while you’re in the hospital with your child has so many benefits. It actually does help keep your spirits and your energy up. Sitting around a boring hospital room all day does nothing good for your mental health, especially if you’re there for weeks or months at a time. I also find that doing healthy things for me while we’re inpatient is also a huge mental boost – I am Doing Something Healthy For Me, Yay Me!
Plus, the obvious physical benefits of getting regular movement and exercise. Many people stress eat in the hospital; exercise will help counteract that. (I stress eat veggies in the hospital, which I know is really weird, but I also tend to hit the sugary beverages and carb-loaded snacks a little heavy, as well.) Plus, unless you specifically make an effort to move around during the day, it’s way too easy to spend the entire day just sitting.
But HOW can you exercise in the hospital?
This is NOT SILLY
I would suggest that first you need to get over the idea of looking silly. This is NOT the weirdest thing your child’s providers have ever seen. Also, I’m not suggesting here that you exercise to the point that you are a sweaty, red-faced mess. Feel free if you like. But that’s not what I’m talking about here.
If you can leave your child’s room, go for a walk. If they can leave with you, plop them in a wheelchair, carrier, or stroller and bring them along. Walk as briskly as you can without being rude to others in the hallway. Your individual hospital policies will vary, and your individual hospital will vary. We’ve had times we’ve only been able to pace up and down a rather short hallway. We’ve also had times we were able to slip away from the unit and walk outside. Walk as much as you can. We usually go for 2-3 walks a day when we’re inpatient if we’re able to leave the room. It kills time, it gives us something else to look at, and it feels good. (Let’s not talk about how many times I use those walks to buy a scotcharoo.)
Stretching and Yoga
If you do yoga, it’s pretty easy to adapt to a hospital room. If you don’t do yoga, you could start! There are YouTube channels with beginner yoga routines – pop one on and give it a try! If you’re not into yoga (I’m not), just a plain ol’ stretching routine can feel really good on a body that’s stressed. Don’t push anything, just gently stretch out your muscles. I try to make it a point to do this at least once a day while inpatient.
I find muscle-building exercises to be easier to do inpatient than aerobic exercise. I try to keep an exercise band in my hospital suitcase for resistance, but even without that, there’s pushups, situps/crunches, leg raises, squats, etc. (I’m typing this post in the outpatient infusion clinic and I’ve just done a set of squats and lunges to wake myself up a little!) I’ve been adding quite a few ideas to my Hospital Life board on Pinterest if you need help getting started.
Keeping it Private
If you want to minimize the chances of being “caught” exercising, consider these strategies.
- Post a note outside your child’s room to please knock, mom is exercising inside. (This is far less embarrassing than the note I used to put out, which was “please come back later, mom is showering inside with the bathroom door open.” Teddy would freak out if I shut the bathroom door.)
- Find a private parent room. Most hospitals have family break rooms, but some hospitals have little private rooms just for you. Sometimes these rooms are intended for sleeping, but as long as you’re being quiet, there’s no reason not to use this room for exercising.
- Hit the gym. Some hospitals have on-site gyms for family use. Our primary hospital has a gym in the next building that parents can use for free. I’ve never taken advantage of this, but I know parents who have and they’ve enjoyed the break from the hospital as much as the exercise itself.