WEDNESDAY, Dec. 28, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- A new Canadian study suggests that patients in intensive care units could pedal their way to better health.
Cycling in bed on specially designed stationary bicycles helped hospital patients recover even when they were critically ill and on breathing machines. The motorized bicycles were attached to the beds.
Researchers at McMaster University and St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton, Ontario, said they have demonstrated that physical therapists can safely start in-bed cycling sessions with critically ill patients.
"People may think that ICU patients are too sick for physical activity, but we know that if patients start in-bed cycling two weeks into their ICU stay, they will walk farther at hospital discharge," said study author Michelle Kho, an assistant professor with the School of Rehabilitation Science at McMaster University.
The new study "finds it is safe and feasible to systematically start in-bed cycling within the first four days of mechanical ventilation and continue throughout a patient's ICU stay," Kho said in a university news release.
The cycling focuses on the legs, which can weaken and atrophy after just a few days in intensive care, the researchers explained.
For the study, the researchers followed 33 adult patients in an ICU unit, all of whom had been able to walk before needing intensive care. The patients cycled in bed for 30 minutes, six days a week.
Cycling was safe for patients whose blood flow was stable, the researchers found, and they were able to cycle within three days of being admitted to the ICU.
"Patients' abilities to cycle during critical illness exceeded our expectations," Kho said.
The study was published Dec. 28 in the journal PLOS ONE.
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