hospital walking wearable steps study health

Walking more right after surgery may help to reduce hospital stays

Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles put step-counting wearables to the test

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Walking up to 1,000 steps on the day following a major surgery, may decrease the odds of having a longer hospital stay — and using an activity monitor, like a step-counting wearable, can be effective in keeping track of how much someone has walked.

These are the findings of a February 2019 study published by the JAMA Network, conducted by researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, CA. There, 100 patients were outfitted with activity monitors to keep track of the steps they walked, which started the day after they had a major operation.

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Walking counts

After a major surgery, patients are often pushed to get out of bed within a day and begin walking. Typically, as they're often in a hospital, this involves nothing more major than looping the floor where they're staying, moving one step at a time, as they hold — and push — a stand carrying their IV fluids as well.

The Apple Watch, pictured here, now has an ECG feature, bringing more health benefits to the wearableThe Apple Watch now has an ECG feature, bringing more health benefits to the wearableGearBrain

These steps they take are usually estimated, or hand counted. But researchers at Cedars-Sinai wanted to see how using a step monitor could better keep track of how far a patient had walked, and how those steps correlated to someone's recovery.

The findings were enough to suggest that medical staff should consider making a 1,000 step count a goal for those in their early recovery days after a major surgery.

"These data suggest a 1000-step daily goal for ambulation in the early postoperative period after major surgery, similar to the 10 000-step daily goal that has been espoused for healthy individuals using activity monitors," wrote researchers in the paper. "While we cannot assume that the association between digitally monitored postoperative step count and LOS is causal, our findings provide the critical foundation for future interventional studies by identifying a clinically meaningful (if ambitious) daily step count goal."

Wearables that keep accurate step counts, worn by a patient featured here, may be a useful medical tool in hospitalsWearables that keep accurate step counts may be a useful medical tool in hospitalsiStock

Health features

Health wearables are growing in popularity among consumers, as are the addition of apps built into and supported by existing smart devices that tap into health features. The Apple Watch, for example, now also has a built-in ECG monitor, and companies including Garmin are working to develop more health devices that double as fitness products as well.

These activity monitors, long used by athletes — professional and weekend warriors — are also now being eyed by health professionals. Monitoring a patient's physical activities, as opposed to getting estimates, may be one way those in the medical field are able to create a better overall picture of someone's health, particularly for those who are in a hospital setting.

"Activity monitors provide an inexpensive platform for more precise assessment, ordering, and monitoring of step count toward evidence-based daily goals and may indeed become a sixth vital sign for surgical teams," they wrote.

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