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Exercise programmes for the elderly reduce unplanned hospital admissions

Exercise programmes for elderly people reduce the number of unplanned hospital admissions, suggests a recent UK study.

The prospective cohort study included 213 adults with a mean age of 78 years that were recruited from general practice surgeries. Data used were based on the Project Older People and Active Project (OPAL), and OPAL-PLUS.  OPAL was an observational cohort study, conducted in 2006/8, of 240 adults aged 70 and over. The objectives of OPAL were to provide documentation of physical activity and lower limb function and their determinants and consequences in a cohort of people aged 70 and over. OPAL-PLUS involved a further assessment three years later (n=213). OPAL-PLUS provided data on numbers of primary care consultations, prescriptions, unplanned hospital admissions, and secondary care referrals, extracted from medical records for up to five years following the baseline data collection. Seven-day accelerometry was used to measure physical activity, including:  total physical activity (counts per registered minute [CPM]) and minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (>1951 CPM).

The results of the study showed that moderate-to-vigorous physical activity predicted unplanned hospital admissions. Patients who undertook a low duration of daily moderate-to-vigorous activity (n=69) had mean of 1.4 unplanned hospital admissions, compared with 1.0 hospital admissions in the high moderate-to-vigorous activity group (n=69).

For this study, more than 23 minutes per day of moderate-to-vigorous activity was required to be included in the high moderate-to-vigorous activity group(mean 39 minutes) which is in line with NICE guidelines recommending 30 minutes of daily physical activity.

The researchers noted that ‘moderate-to-vigorous physical activity is associated with subsequent unplanned hospital admissions in adults in their 70s and 80s’ and that their data ‘provides support for greater availability of community-based programmes to increase physical activity and suggests the potential for health care cost savings’.

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