Sedentary older Australians are being encouraged to get walking to help reduce their time in hospital.
Sedentary older Australians are being encouraged to get walking to help reduce their time in hospital. Siri Stafford

This simple exercise could save you from hospital time

WALKING for good health, weight management and mental wellbeing is a well-documented recommendation for anyone of any age.

Medical experts, scientists and fitness gurus keep telling us increase your steps to reduce your health problems, stepping out for at least 10,000 steps or a total of 30 minutes a day.

Researchers are now adding to the list of good reasons to get walking with the advice that sedentary older Australians should add 4300 steps to their day to help reduce their time in hospital.

The research by Dr Ben Ewald and his colleagues from the Centre for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of Newcastle and published in the Medical Journal of Australia, was conducted on a group aged 55 and older with 2110 results analysed.

Researchers found 75% of the participants took 8800 steps per day and spent almost one-third of a day less in hospital per year than the remaining 25% of study participants who took only 4500 steps per day.

They found an increase in a person's step count from 4500 to 8800 steps per day was associated with 0.36 fewer hospital bed-days per person per year.

When a day in hospital costs about $1895 and there is a potential saving of $550 per year for each person who increases their physical activity by about 4300 steps, then it is worth it for everyone in the community to make an effort to get walking.

"These steps can be accumulated as many brief activities throughout the day, or as steady walking for about 3 kilometres," the report authors said.

Factors that the researchers believe can also encourage better population health for older Australians are in the areas of health interventions and urban design features that encourage walking.

They also highlighted the value of wearing an activity monitor which has the potential of enhancing the likelihood of a person increasing their physical activity and then maintaining that activity over an extended period.

"... for health practitioners with sedentary patients looking for assistance with becoming more active, a wearable activity monitor would be a good first step," the report concluded.

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