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“Get Up and Go” – A key to rehabilitation and regaining health

Small things matter. A small activity like getting up out of the chair and walking a short distance can improve mobility and strength, especially when hospitalized or recovering in a short-term rehabilitation setting. Bedrest and lack of mobility contribute to functional decline, and prolonged immobility can make it harder to return to a person’s pre-hospitalized level of function. Immobility has been shown to be one of the leading complications in the hospitalized older person. Improving mobility has shown to reduce falls, skin breakdown, venous thromboembolic disease, and delirium in the older person.

The Timed Get Up and Go test is both an activity and a measurement of mobility. It involves physical moves such as standing from a sitting position, walking up to 10 feet, turning, stopping, and sitting down. These exercises are needed for a person to be independently mobile. Impairment of these skills in older people results in: increased risk of immobility, activity limitation and potential dependence on others for care. A mobility program using even a short intervention such as the Get Up and Go will promote strength and endurance when consistently performed among older adults in the hospital or rehabilitation setting.

The HOPE trial has provided valuable information on exercise interventions in the older person. The program consisted of strengthening exercises that enhance mobility. These included the fundamental movement skills (which also mirror the Get Up and Go practice) such as getting out of bed, standing up from a chair or a toilet, and walking a short distance. In this study, the length of time of 12 weeks is noted to be the key to success of the intervention. The participants who exercised throughout this intervention showed stronger muscles, improved distance and duration of ambulation.

While physical therapy is an important and critical intervention in regaining strength, balance, mobility and safety, there are also key ways to be sure that you are getting mobile more often and adding an extra dose to your physical therapy sessions with a goal of increased mobility at a minimum of three times per day, six days a week.

What you and your family and friends can do is advocate for a clear plan from your healthcare team that identifies the activity level you can do independently or with the assistance of family and friends. Advocate for the opportunity to get up and go to improve strength and mobility in a way that is safe and reasonable. Then, get up and go often. Small steps make a big difference in recovering from an illness and maintaining your function and activity goals.