Only 25 minutes of walking per day may keep older patients from weakening

If an older person is already weakened by a medical condition, then spending all day in a hospital bed is only going to make them weaker. New research, however, suggests that as little as 25 minutes of walking per day makes a big difference.

The problems with extended-bedrest-related physical decline extend beyond simply not being able to lift as much as weight as before, or things like that.

When discharged from hospital, weakened older patients are more likely to have accidents or develop complications requiring readmission, they’re more likely to require care in a nursing home, and even have a higher risk of death. This increased level of vulnerability is known as “post-hospital syndrome.”

Led by scientists from Spain’s University of Seville, an international team of researchers recently set out to determine how much in-hospital exercise is necessary to protect patients from such decline. In order to do so, the scientists reviewed previously conducted clinical trials which measured the effect of any type of prescribed physical activity on older inpatients who were being treated for a serious illness. All of the trials compared those patients to a control group “receiving usual care.”

Nineteen trials were ultimately included in the study, involving 3,783 patients (55% of which were women) ranging in age from 55 to 87. On average, they stayed in the hospital for seven days and were monitored for 68 days after discharge. All of them could move unaided.

It was found that the minimum “dose” for counteracting the weakening effect of bedrest was 25 minutes per day of moderate physical activity such as walking, or 40 minutes of less intense activity. The optimum doses were around 50 and 70 minutes, respectively.

Beyond that, more wasn’t necessarily better – there appeared to be no added benefit in exceeding 60 minutes of moderate activity or 90 minutes of light activity. It was additionally noted that while both groups experienced a similar number of falls after being discharged from the hospital, the patients who had exercised tended to be less severely injured.

“If the most potent intervention is provided [walking], the beneficial effects of in-hospital supervised physical activity programs can be maximized with as little as around 25 mins/day of slow-paced walking, an achievable target for most hospitalized older adults,” the scientists stated.

A paper on the research was recently published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Source: BMJ Publishing Group

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