Background: Acute hospitalization has been associated with functional and cognitive decline, particularly in elderly adults. This decline is associated with increased morbidity and mortality.
Study design: Single-center, single-blind, randomized clinical trial.
Setting: Acute care unit in a tertiary public hospital in Navarra, Spain.
Synopsis: 370 patients aged 75 years or older who were hospitalized in an acute care unit received either individualized moderate intensity exercise regimens (focusing on resistance, balance, and walking) or standard hospital care (with physical rehabilitation as appropriate). Patients who received standard care had a decrease in functional capacity at discharge when compared with their baseline function (mean change of –5.0 points on the Barthel Index of Independence; 95% confidence interval, –6.8 to –3.2 points), while those who received the exercise intervention had no functional decline from baseline on discharge (mean change of 1.9 points; 95% CI, 0.2-3.7 points).
Patients who received the exercise intervention had significantly higher scores on functional and cognitive assessments at discharge, compared with patients who received standard hospital care alone. Specifically, the study demonstrated a mean increase of 2.2 points (95% CI, 1.7-2.6 points) on the Short Physical Performance Battery, 6.9 points (95% CI, 4.4-9.5 points) on the Barthel Index, and 1.8 points (95% CI, 1.3-2.3 points) on a cognitive assessment, compared with those who received standard hospital care.
Bottom line: An individualized, multicomponent exercise intervention can help reverse functional and cognitive decline associated with acute hospitalization in elderly patients.
Citation: Martinez-Velilla N et al. Effect of exercise intervention on functional decline in very elderly adults during acute hospitalization. JAMA Intern Med. 2019;179(1):28-36.
Dr. Chace is an associate physician in the division of hospital medicine at the University of California, San Diego.