“Given the over-occupancy of many hospitals, this finding can be of great importance,” said researchers Dr. Efrat Shadmi and Dr. Anna Zisberg of the University of Haifa’s Department of Nursing.
The study focused on geriatric patients. It was funded by the Israeli Science Foundation and published in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine.
The study surveyed 485 participants aged 70 and up, who were hospitalized for at least two days in the internal wards of a hospital in Israel. All the participants were able to walk. The researchers asked them about their physical activity during the course of their hospitalization, and based on their answers were divided into two study groups: those who remained in bed or seated next to it and those who walked around their rooms and the ward.
The research showed that all of the patients who walked around shortened their hospital stay by an average day and a half compared with those who did not exercise physical mobility. The study also found that those who walked around the ward on the first day of hospitalization shortened their stay more than the others. The researchers said that they found this to be relevant regardless of the patients’ health status.
“The muscle’s reserve capacity can decompose quite quickly in older people. If they shift from a mode of mobility — even if it was minimal — to a state of almost complete immobility, and even for just a few short days of hospitalization, they could very quickly lose their muscle ‘reserves’ resulting in more difficulties functioning and other complications. This study, along with other new studies in the area, shows that walking really does pay off,” the researchers said.
Moreover, the study pointed out that simple intervention to encourage walking in the geriatric internal wards ought to be seriously considered, so as to shorten the length of the geriatric patient’s hospital stay.