Research raising awareness of sedentary behaviour risks

Raising awareness of the risks prolonged sitting and lying in hospital – which can significantly worsen a patient’s condition – is the focus of new research involving older people at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

Researcher and physiotherapist Jasper Unyime said in hospital, older people can sit or lie for almost 23 hours a day.

“Prolonged sedentary behaviour can harm hospitalised older people, yet there is a common misconception among patients and carers about the risk of prolonged sitting or lying,” Mr Unyime said.

“Not only can it delay their recovery, sedentary behaviour can in fact worsen their condition.

“Our research aims to educate and communicate to patients and carers that movement actually helps them to recover.”

Along with co-investigators from the National Health and Medical Research Council Centre for Research Excellence in Frailty and Healthy Ageing, including orthopaedic surgeon Associate Professor Mellick Chehade, Jasper is collaborating with older people and clinical staff to co-create a video intervention.

“There is an increasing role for consumers to help inform interventions, and research into these methods is lacking in Australia,” he said.

“By having input from the consumers we want to educate, it will help us get the message across in a way that is engaging and inspires action.

“At TQEH, nursing, medical and allied health staff all work with patients to encourage movement and activity, but we hope a tailored video will help reinforce that message and portray the serious risks of prolonged sedentary behaviour.”

“We want to help older patients to realise they can help themselves get well quicker by getting up and moving. Even the smallest change can make a big difference.”

80-year-old Robin Langdon, who has been a patient at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital receiving treatment for a back injury and foot ulcers, says he can see the benefits.

“I get up with my walker and walk the corridors, at least I’m doing something,” Mr Landgon said.

“The patient next to me had a fall and barely got out of bed for a week. I don’t know how he’s going to get on at home because he hasn’t really done any exercise.”

The video will be based on interviews with staff, carers and patients about their attitudes to sedentary behaviour.

The study will then evaluate impact of a co-created video among hospitalised older people and their carers on knowledge of and intention to reduce sedentary behaviour.

Jasper Unyime, Dr Joanne Dollard and A/Prof Mellick Chehade were awarded the national RM Gibson Prize by the Australian Association of Gerontology to progress their work.

Jasper Unyime is a PhD candidate at the University of Adelaide with supervisors Professor Renuka Visvanathan, Dr Joanne Dollard, Dr Agathe Jadczak and A/Prof Solomon Yu.

Pictured are researcher Jasper Unyime with patient Robin Langdon.