Physical activity has been recognized as an important aspect of patient care for nearly 50 years. Yet, deconditioning and functional decline of hospitalized elderly patients continue to be reported. Such outcomes suggest that a good system for providing activity in hospitals is lacking. In this retrospective study we assessed the provision of physical activity to 500 elderly patients (100 in each of five hospitals) during the first 7 days of hospitalization. No activity order was in effect on 13% of the 3500 patient days reviewed. When activity was ordered, patient activity was different from the activity permitted by the physician orders on 41% of the days. Patients who remained in bed or in a chair rarely received physical therapy, never had physician orders for exercises, and never performed exercises with the nurses. These findings demonstrate that the current practices for the provision of physical activity in hospitals are ineffective.
(Arch Intern Med. 1991;151:2452-2456)