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Original article

Vol. 152 No. 4950 (2022)

Steps parameters of elderly patients hospitalised for an acute medical illness in a Swiss University Hospital: an observational pilot study

  • Francesco Tommasini
  • Pedro Marques-Vidal
  • Bengt Kayser
  • Plamena Tasheva
  • Anisoara Ionescu
  • Marie Méan
Cite this as:
Swiss Med Wkly. 2022;152:40012


BACKGROUND: Objective mobility goals for elderly hospitalised medical patients remain debated. We therefore studied steps parameters of elderly patients hospitalised for an acute illness, to determine goals for future interventional trials and medical practice.

METHODS: Observational study conducted from February to November 2018 in a medical ward of the Lausanne University Hospital, Switzerland. We measured the step parameters of consecutive medical patients aged ≥65 years admitted for an acute medical illness using a wrist accelerometer (Geneactiv). We also collected demographic, somatic and functional factors.

RESULTS: Overall, 187 inpatients had their step parameters (daily step count, walking cadence and bout duration) measured with accelerometers worn for a mean of 3.6 days (standard deviation [SD] 3.2). Elderly inpatients (81.5 years, SD 8.5) walked a median of 603 steps daily (interquartile range [IQR] 456–809), at a median cadence of 100 steps/minute (IQR 99–101) with median walking bouts of 33 seconds (IQR 27–37) and with 70% of the walking bouts lasting less than 30 seconds. Patients walking ≥600 steps were younger (80.4 years, SD 8.9 vs 82.8 years,SD 7.9, p = 0.050) and had a longer length of stay (7.8 days, SD 5.1 vs 6.1 days, SD 4.1, p = 0.011) than those walking <600 steps. Patients at high risk of bed sores walked less (564 steps, IQR 394–814 vs 626, IQR 526–840) than those with a lower risk of sores.

CONCLUSION: During a hospitalisation for an acute medical illness, patients aged ≥65 years walk a mere 603 steps daily and most of the time for periods of less than 30 seconds. This information should be used to build up future interventional trials or to set mobility goals for patients hospitalised in Swiss hospitals.


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