Exercise for acutely hospitalised older medical patients

Peter Hartley, Jennifer L. Keating, Kimberley J. Jeffs, Melissa J. M. Raymond, Toby O. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Approximately 30% of hospitalised older adults experience hospital-associated functional decline. Exercise interventions that promote in-hospital activity may prevent deconditioning and thereby maintain physical function during hospitalisation. This is an update of a Cochrane Review first published in 2007.

Objectives: To evaluate the benefits and harms of exercise interventions for acutely hospitalised older medical inpatients on functional ability, quality of life (QoL), participant global assessment of success and adverse events compared to usual care or a sham-control intervention.

Search methods: We used standard, extensive Cochrane search methods. The latest search date was May 2021.

Selection criteria: We included randomised or quasi-randomised controlled trials evaluating an in-hospital exercise intervention in people aged 65 years or older admitted to hospital with a general medical condition. We excluded people admitted for elective reasons or surgery.

Data collection and analysis: We used standard Cochrane methods. Our major outcomes were 1. independence with activities of daily living; 2. functional mobility; 3. new incidence of delirium during hospitalisation; 4. QoL; 5. number of falls during hospitalisation; 6. medical deterioration during hospitalisation and 7. participant global assessment of success. Our minor outcomes were 8. death during hospitalisation; 9. musculoskeletal injuries during hospitalisation; 10. hospital length of stay; 11. new institutionalisation at hospital discharge; 12. hospital readmission and 13. walking performance. We used GRADE to assess certainty of evidence for each major outcome. We categorised exercise interventions as: rehabilitation-related activities (interventions designed to increase physical activity or functional recovery, but did not follow a specified exercise protocol); structured exercise (interventions that included an exercise intervention protocol but did not include progressive resistance training); and progressive resistance exercise (interventions that included an element of progressive resistance training).

Main results: We included 24 studies (nine rehabilitation-related activity interventions, six structured exercise interventions and nine progressive resistance exercise interventions) with 7511 participants. All studies compared exercise interventions to usual care; two studies, in addition to usual care, used sham interventions. Mean ages ranged from 73 to 88 years, and 58% of participants were women. Several studies were at high risk of bias. The most common domain assessed at high risk of bias was measurement of the outcome, and five studies (21%) were at high risk of bias arising from the randomisation process. Exercise may have no clinically important effect on independence in activities of daily living at discharge from hospital compared to controls (16 studies, 5174 participants; low-certainty evidence). Five studies used the Barthel Index (scale: 0 to 100, higher scores representing greater independence). Mean scores at discharge in the control groups ranged from 42 to 96 points, and independence in activities of daily living was 1.8 points better (0.43worse to 4.12 better) with exercise compared to controls. The minimally clinical important difference (MCID) is estimated to be 11 points.
We are uncertain regarding the effect of exercise on functional mobility at discharge from the hospital compared to controls (8 studies, 2369 participants; very low-certainty evidence). Three studies used the Short Physical Performance Battery (SPPB) (scale: 0 to 12, higher scores representing better function) to measure functional mobility. Mean scores at discharge in the control groups ranged from 3.7 to 4.9 points on the SPPB, and the estimated effect of the exercise interventions was 0.78 points better (0.02 worse to 1.57 better). A change of 1 point on the SPPB represents an MCID.
We are uncertain regarding the effect of exercise on the incidence of delirium during hospitalisation compared to controls (7 trials, 2088 participants; very low-certainty evidence). The incidence of delirium during hospitalisation was 88/1091 (81 per 1000) in the control group compared with 70/997 (73 per 1000; range 47 to 114) in the exercise group (RR 0.90, 95% CI 0.58 to 1.41). Exercise interventions may result in a small clinically unimportant improvement in QoL at discharge from the hospital compared to controls (4 studies, 875 participants; low-certainty evidence). Mean QoL on the EuroQol 5 Dimensions (EQ-5D) visual analogue scale (VAS) (scale: 0 to 100, higher scores representing better QoL) ranged between 48.9 and 64.7 in the control group at discharge from the hospital, and QoL was 6.04 points better (0.9 better to 11.18 better) with exercise. A change of 10 points on the EQ-5D VAS represents an MCID. No studies measured participant global assessment of success. Exercise interventions did not affect the risk of falls during hospitalisation (moderate-certainty evidence). The incidence of falls was 31/899 (34 per 1000) in the control group compared with 31/888 (34 per 1000; range 20 to 57) in the exercise group (RR 0.99, 95% CI 0.59 to 1.65). We are uncertain regarding the effect of exercise on the incidence of medical deterioration during hospitalisation (very low-certainty evidence). The incidence of medical deterioration in the control group was 101/1417 (71 per 1000) compared with 96/1313 (73 per 1000; range 44 to 120) in the exercise group (RR 1.02, 95% CI 0.62 to 1.68). Subgroup analyses by different intervention categories and by the use of a sham intervention were not meaningfully different from the main analyses.

Authors' conclusions: Exercise may make little difference to independence in activities of daily living or QoL, but probably does not result in more falls in older medical inpatients. We are uncertain about the effect of exercise on functional mobility, incidence of delirium and medical deterioration. Certainty of evidence was limited by risk of bias and inconsistency. Future primary research on the effect of exercise on acute hospitalisation could focus on more consistent and uniform reporting of participant's characteristics including their baseline level of functional ability, as well as exercise dose, intensity and adherence that may provide an insight into the reasons for the observed inconsistencies in findings.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberCD005955
JournalCochrane Database of Systematic Reviews
Volume2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 10 Nov 2022

Keywords

  • Controlled trial
  • exercise therapy
  • length of stay
  • hospital costs
  • physical fitness
  • randomized controlled trial

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