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Keywords:

  • elderly;
  • hospitalization-associated disability;
  • functional decline;
  • low mobility;
  • exercise

Objectives

To describe expectations of, and perceived motivators and barriers to, in-hospital exercise of hospitalized older adults.

Design

Qualitative study using the framework theory.

Setting

Public hospital general medical wards.

Participants

Twenty-eight English- or Spanish-speaking inpatients aged 65 to 103.

Measurements

Semistructured interviews were conducted at the bedside. Questions explored attitudes and expectations regarding in-hospital exercise. Interviews were tape recorded and transcribed, and content analysis was performed to identify major themes.

Results

For most participants (71%), exercise in the hospital meant walking. Only 29% of participants expected to be exercising in the hospital, although three-quarters perceived it to be appropriate. Major themes included motivating factors and barriers to in-hospital exercise. Motivating factors included avoiding the negative effects of prolonged bed rest, promoting a sense of well-being, promoting functional recovery, and being asked to exercise. Barriers included symptoms related to one's illness, institutional barriers, and fear of injury. Most respondents (85%) felt that if the physician suggested exercise, it would influence their decision to do so, yet few (27%) reported that they had spoken to their physician about exercise.

Conclusion

Hospitalized older adults have positive perceptions about in-hospital exercise, although they must overcome significant barriers to do so. Medical professionals have a strong influence over the exercise behavior of elderly adults in the hospital yet infrequently address the issue. Incorporating motivating factors and removing barriers may increase the effectiveness of in-hospital exercise programs.