Professor Chris Del Mar and researchers at the University of Queensland Medical School in Australia reviewed 39 published studies to assess the benefit and harm of bed rest for 15 different medical problems.
"In 24 trials investigating bed rest following a medical procedure, no outcomes improved significantly and eight worsened significantly in some procedures," they said in a study published in The Lancet Medical Journal.
Other trials revealed that patients suffering from acute low back pain, labor, heart attack and infectious hepatitis did not improve after taking to their beds.
In one study of the use of bed rest in obstetrics, women in the first stage of labor fared much worse after bed rest than others who remained more active.
"Overall, there was no evidence that bed rest has any significant beneficial effect when used as a treatment or when used after surgery. Indeed, in some disorders it seems to be harmful," they added.
The researchers said advice given by a wise doctor in 1944 is still apt today:
"The physician must always consider complete bed rest as a highly unphysiologic and definitely hazardous form of therapy, to be ordered only for specific indications and discontinued as early as possible."