Elderly Patients Can Shorten Hospitalization by Walking

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Elderly patients should get out of bed and walk the halls during hospitalization, say the authors of a new study from the University of Haifa’s Department of Nursing. Patients aged 70 and older shortened their hospital stay by more than one day when they got out of bed and walked around the hospital.

Walking gets the elderly out of the hospital faster

It’s a fact that inactivity contributes and leads to muscle atrophy and that lack of muscular movement for prolonged periods is linked to obesity, heart disease, and an overall higher risk of death. Now a new study finds that something as simple as walking around a hospital room or the hallways, for elderly patients without restricted mobility, could send them on their way home faster.

A total of 485 patients aged 70 and older who were hospitalized for at least two days and who did not have restricted mobility were questioned about how much physical activity they engaged in while in the hospital. Based on their answers, the patients were divided into two groups: patients who walked around their room and the hallways, and those who stayed in bed or seated next to it.

The researchers found that patients who did not stay in bed or in their chair went home an average of a day and a half faster compared with patients who did not walk around during their hospitalization. In addition, patients who walked around the halls on day one of their hospitalization had a shorter stay than the other patients, regardless of their health status.

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In a previous study published in January 2011, investigators from the University of Texas Medical Branch evaluated the walking activity of 239 adults age 65 and older who were hospitalized with an acute medical condition. They found that patients who had shorter hospital stays tended to walk more on their first full day of hospitalization and had a significantly greater increase in mobility on day 2 than patients who had longer hospitalizations.

The authors of the latest study, Drs. Efrat Shadmi and Anna Zisberg, noted that “the muscle’s reserve capacity can decompose quite quickly in older people,” and that suddenly becoming nearly totally immobile, even for just a few days, could cause them to “very quickly lose their muscle reserves.”

Accordingly, they concluded that their study, along with others, “shows that walking really does pay off” for elderly patients who are hospitalized. Not only can these patients go home sooner, but shorter hospitalizations free up much-needed beds.

SOURCES:
Ekblom-Bak E et al. British Journal of Sports Medicine 2010; 44: 834-35
Fisher SR et al. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society 2011 Jan; 59(1): 91-95
University of Haifa/Shadmi E, Zisberg A. Archives of Internal Medicine 2011 Jul 25; 171(14): 1298

Picture credit: Wikimedia Commons

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