Back to Top In-bed cycling in the ICU promotes early rehabilitation - The Ottawa Hospital



In-bed cycling in the ICU promotes early rehabilitation

In-bed cycling in the ICU promotes early rehabilitation

Physiotherapists Josée Lamontagne (left) and Rachel Goard supervised while Respiratory Therapy student Patrick Lapointe demonstrated the specially-designed bicycle  in the Intensive Care Unit at the Ottawa Hospital.

The Intensive Care Unit isn’t generally considered a good spot for a leisurely bike ride – but for some patients, it’s the perfect location to get some exercise.

Physiotherapists Josée Lamontagne, Rachel Goard, Michelle Cummings and Sarah Patten from the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at The Ottawa Hospital have joined forces with teams across the province to research whether in-bed cycling can help critically-ill patients recover faster from their ICU stay. The research program, known as ‘CYCLE,’ is the first randomized clinical trial of its kind in Canada.

Some patients in the program are asked to use a specially-designed bicycle to strengthen their legs while they’re confined to a hospital bed, while others in the program form a control group. Both groups receive regular physiotherapy treatments. Researchers will compare the data to learn how much, if any, difference the bicycle made for patients overall.

Some patients were a bit sceptical at first, said Lamontagne, but quickly adapted.

“We’re seeing that it improves the strength in their legs and helps with early mobility,” she said. “It’s also motivating for them – patients get excited about it and feel like they’re making progress.”


The bicycle’s screen shows the patient’s speed and progress, and a cycling avatar keeps patients motivated.

It can take years for patients to regain function and strength after a major illness or injury, but the cycling program allows patients to begin rehabilitation early in their ICU stay. The bike can be tailored to the patient’s abilities – it can even move slowly on its own, to help patients get started.

“Because they can bike lying down in bed, they’re often strong enough to try this before they’re strong enough to walk,” said Lamontagne.

“These are patients that are stuck inside all the time, but the bike can make them feel like they’re outside and moving.”


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