Hospitalists might want to incorporate questions about how much time a patient spends sitting into their diagnostic interview—then consider the same question for themselves.
A study published this spring in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise reports that time spent watching TV or riding in a car “were significant cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality predictors” (Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2010;42(5):879-885). The research gained traction in medical publications and was highlighted in The New York Times. But for one of the researchers at the University of South Carolina, more work is needed.
“This is sort of a new way of looking at the equation,” says Steven Hooker, PhD, director of the university's Prevention Research Center. “We really don’t have any formal guidelines or recommendations on limiting sedentary behavior, although I think at some point in time we’ll get to that stage.”
Until then, hospitalists are in a prime position to determine a patient’s lifestyle—sedentary or active—via routine checklist questions they ask upon admission. Although some HM groups already ask questions about how often a patient exercises, Dr. Hooker suspects only a few groups ask how often a patient breaks up long periods of sitting.
Further, he suggests that while there are no standard recommendations, hospitalists would serve their patients well by incorporating helpful hints in discharge instructions or admission interviews.
“Encourage a person to build in standing or slight walking breaks in a daily routine, recommend they stand periodically while attending long meetings or during long periods of travel,” Dr. Hooker says. “Common sense reigns here.”
On the flip side, hospitalists would do well to remember that while their workday might include a high level of light-intensity activity, they face the same pitfalls as their patients: commuting, sitting in meetings, long periods of time in front of the computer, TV, or PlayStation.
“We have to get the public looking at physical activity and physical inactivity as two completely separate things,” says study first author Tatiana Warren, MS, a doctoral student in the department of exercise science at the University of South Carolina's Arnold School of Public Health. “We have to continue to do more research and get the word out.”