Skip to main content


Early activity in the PICU


Many patients in the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) develop muscle weakness. In some patients, this weakness can last for a long time and keep them from returning to their normal lives.

Being mobile and active in the PICU can help patients maintain their muscle strength. With the help of trained staff, activity and movement in the PICU can be safe.


St. Jude has a program called BRAVE PICU Up! BRAVE stands for beginning restorative activities very early. This program encourages early mobility (movement) with PICU patients. 

As part of regular PICU care, patients can be active with the help of specially-trained nurses, respiratory therapists, child life specialists, physical therapists, and occupational therapists. Increasing mobility and activity can decrease delirium (feeling confused and sleepy). This can improve quality of life before, during, and after critical care.

How it works

  • For older children, this program starts with moving in bed.
  • Next, with help, patients will try sitting on the side of the bed.
  • Slowly, patients may progress to standing and walking. How fast this happens is based on how well they were moving before coming to the PICU.
  • Younger children might take part in mat play or even take a trip around the unit in a stroller or wagon.
  • Some infants and children may still be on a breathing machine, called a ventilator, during these sessions.


  • Get critically ill children moving safely with planned activities
  • Restore and maintain physical strength, social skills, and emotional well-being
  • Improve sleep patterns
  • Maintain comfort and pain control with fewer medicines
  • Help your child recover faster and get back to regular activities as soon as possible


If you have questions about early activity in the PICU, please speak with your PICU team.


This document is not intended to take the place of the care and attention of your personal physician or other professional medical services. Our aim is to promote active participation in your care and treatment by providing information and education. Questions about individual health concerns or specific treatment options should be discussed with your physician.

St. Jude complies with health care-related federal civil rights laws and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex.

ATTENTION: If you speak another language, assistance services, free of charge, are available to you. Call 1-866-278-5833 (TTY: 1-901-595-1040).

ATENCIÓN: si habla español, tiene a su disposición servicios gratuitos de asistencia lingüística. Llame al 1-866-278-5833 (TTY: 1-901-595-1040).

تنبيه: إذا كنت تتحدث باللغة العربية فيمكنك الاستعانة بخدمات المساعدة اللغوية المتوفرة لك مجانا. .يرجى الاتصال بالرقم. 5833-278-866-1  (الهاتف النصي: 1040-595-901-1).