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When I have a cold or the flu, will I get better faster by staying in bed for a day or two or by doing my usual chores?

A huge review of the medical literature showed that there is no evidence that bed rest helps you to heal faster from any medical condition. During World War II, American soldiers were drafted and sent to do their basic training at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center. A major epidemic of flu occurred affecting almost all the troops. Half of the soldiers were kept in bed, while the other half stayed in the vigorous exercise of basic training. Both groups required the same amount of time to recover, although those forced to undergo the rigorous demands of basic training complained more.

Researchers at the University of Queensland in Australia searched the medical literature from 1966 to 1999 and found only 39 studies testing whether bed rest benefits any medical condition. Twenty-four studies showed that bed rest was of little or no benefit in preventing side effects of medical procedures such as spinal anesthesia, spinal fluid withdrawal, and multiple x ray procedures. Fifteen studies showed no benefit in treating medical conditions such as low back pain, spontaneous labor, high blood pressure during pregnancy, uncomplicated heart attacks, rheumatoid arthritis or infectious hepatitis. So the next time you feel sick, stay in bed if you like, but it probably won't help you recover faster.

May 1, 2006

May 30th, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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