Walking: A Ticket to the Outside

Geriatric patients have shorter hospital stays if they remain active

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Maintaining physical activity levels is important at all ages. It may be particularly important for geriatric patients to have daily fitness goals.

According to a recent study, elderly patients who maintained a walking regimen during their hospitalization had significantly shorter hospital stays than those who were less mobile.

"Encourage your elderly relatives to walk when hospitalized."

According to Dr. Efrat Shadmi and Dr. Anna Zisberg of the University of Haifa’s Department of Nursing, older patients sometimes believe they should remain bedridden during their hospital stay, but actually, physical time out of bed will serve them well.

The researchers report that muscle mass diminishes quite rapidly in geriatric patients because their muscle reserve capacity is so low.

The study surveyed almost 500 participants who were 70 years of age and older and hospitalized for two or more days in a hospital in Israel. Those who were not bedridden or immobile were included in the study. The questionnaire asked about their in-hospital activity levels.

The researchers then divided the participants in two groups: the hospital walkers and the non-walkers. The walkers stayed an average of a day and a half less than the patients who remain immobile. This was true regardless of each patient's health status.

When these patients go abruptly from mobile to immobile, they can quickly lose muscle reserves which can result in many more problems and possible complications. Researchers want to inform patients that walking while in the hospital is the best way to go.

Geriatric wards need to encourage walking so their patients can possibly have a shorter stay in the hospital. This trend could also help reduce overcrowding and costs.

Teri Bedillion, B.S.N, R.N., M.B.A., former head nurse of the geriatric ward at Hermann Hospital, Houston, TX says, "Elderly patients often progress more quickly if they are able to maintain a walking program while hospitalized. Older patients who aren't able to keep moving in the hospital can have longer stays."

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Review Date: 
August 8, 2011
Last Updated:
October 21, 2012