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General exercises

Patient information A-Z

The following gentle exercises are aimed to improve general muscle strength and mobility. Ideally each exercise should be repeated for about a minute and should be performed two to three times daily. If you feel that this is too much you could try doing 30 seconds of each exercise and build up gradually.

The aim is to perform each exercise in a slow, controlled manner. Avoid quick, small movements. Hold on to something secure (like the bed) if you are unsteady. Try to take slow breaths throughout the exercises. Avoid holding your breath.

Lying down

1) Lying on the bed with your knees bent. Gently lower them to one side then the other side, letting your hips rotate.

Drawing showing how to start the lying down exercise

2) Keeping your knee straight, lift your leg up off the bed and then gently lower it back down.

Drawing showing someone laying down doing lifting and lowering movement of the leg,


3) Sitting upright in a chair, straighten your leg and point your toes up to the ceiling then lower.

Diagram of a person lifting their leg while sat on a chair

4) Bend your elbow to touch the front of your shoulder then straighten your arm fully.

Drawing showing the elbow bending movement

5) Slide your hand gently down your side, allowing yourself to bend sideways at your waist then return to upright.

Drawing showing the hand sliding side movement

6) Lift your arm up to the ceiling, keeping your elbow as close to your ear as possible then lower.

Drawing of a person lifting one arm up


7) Hold on to a support. Push yourself up onto your toes then lower.

Drawing showing the standing push movement with person holding onto a chair

8) Hold on to a support. Lift your leg out straight behind you, squeezing your buttock then return to start position.

Drawing showing the standing leg lift movement


There are many benefits to keeping more active. You may experience less joint pain, feel stronger and be able to do more.


If you have any specific joint, muscle or back problems you should discuss these exercises with a doctor or physiotherapist before you begin. These exercises should not cause any pain in your joints. If this happens, seek further advice before continuing with the programme. You may experience some muscle ache after completing the exercises; sometimes this begins the following day. This is usually a sign you have worked the muscle beyond what it would normally do. If the aching is particularly uncomfortable, you may wish to reduce the exercises and then build up gradually as you get stronger.

Further information

Please ask to speak to a physiotherapist if you are having any specific difficulties or would like some further advice.

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Smoking is not allowed anywhere on the hospital campus. For advice and support in quitting, contact your GP or the free NHS stop smoking helpline on 0800 169 0 169.

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Contact us

Cambridge University Hospitals
NHS Foundation Trust
Hills Road, Cambridge

Telephone +44 (0)1223 245151