New study from the University of South Australia suggests that wearable activity monitors like Fitbits, Garmins, or Apple Watches might help patients recover quicker during a hospitalisation, thereby relieving some stresses on Australia’s overworked hospital system.
The systematic review and meta-analysis, published today in the prestigious JAMA Network Open, found that hospital patients who wore activity trackers were more active, less sedentary, and had improved physical function (compared to patients receiving usual care in hospital), all of which aided in faster recovery.
The review of 15 studies revealed the following for a total of 1911 individuals in rehabilitation settings (including those for stroke, orthopaedic surgery, mixed rehabilitation, and other medical and surgical cohorts):
A) ncrease of 826 steps per day above standard care
B) Daily exercise time increased by 10 minutes above standard care.
C) Sedentary time decreased by 36 minutes daily compared to standard care.
Kimberley Szeto, a UniSA PhD candidate and certified exercise physiologist, claims that wearable activity trackers help hasten patients’ recoveries by increasing their activity levels and decreasing their sedentary behaviour while in the hospital.
Szeto explains that patients tend to be quite inactive while in the hospital, which paradoxically might make other health problems worse and result in even longer hospital stays.
“Functional decline, frailty, disability, and even greater mortality risks may be triggered by a lack of mobility during a hospital stay.
Wearable activity monitors, like Fitbits, are an excellent intervention for reducing inactivity and increasing movement in hospitalised patients. Physical function (the patient’s capacity to carry out everyday tasks like balancing and going to where they need to go) is one clinical outcome that may benefit from this.
“While 826 steps may not sound like a lot, the improvements that our study found are substantial,” the authors write, “with other studies showing that increasing daily step counts by even 250-500 steps is associated with a reduced risk for prolonged hospitalisation, discharge to non-home locations, and readmission.”
Wearable activity trackers are a potential technique for enhancing patients’ activity and recuperation during hospitalisation, according to senior researcher Professor Carol Maher.
“The burden of hospitalisations is heavy on the health care system. Wearable activity trackers are a low-cost, high-impact tool that significantly improves the road to recovery.