Home Exercise Program Improves Hip Recovery, Study Finds

Posted on: February 24, 2014

Home exercise programs after traditional rehabilitation may help hip fracture patients regain normal function more quickly, according to a new study led by a BU School of Public Health researcher.

In the study, published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, Nancy Latham, research assistant professor in the Health and Disability Research Institute at BUSPH, and colleagues sought to create a home exercise program, requiring minimal supervision, for adults who had suffered a hip fracture. The team worked with 195 functionally limited older adults who had completed traditional rehabilitation after a fracture.

Nancy Latham

Nancy Latham

Half of the group received cardiovascular nutrition education, while the intervention group received instruction in a home rehab program comprising functionally oriented exercises, such as standing from a chair and climbing a step.

The intervention group showed more improvement in functional mobility on various measures. In addition, balance significantly improved in the intervention group, compared with the control group, at six months.

Researchers said the study indicates that many patients require more care than a hospital stay and a few weeks in a rehab facility.

“The traditional approach to rehabilitation for hip fracture leaves many patients with long-term functional limitations that could be reduced with extended rehabilitation,” they wrote. “However, it is unlikely that additional months of highly supervised rehabilitation can be provided to patients with hip fracture.”

Latham and colleagues said the findings suggest that the directed home approach “could be introduced to patients after completion of traditional physical therapy . . . and may provide a more effective way for these patients to continue to exercise in their own homes. However, future research is needed to explore whether the interventions in this trial can be disseminated in a cost-effective manner in real clinical environments.”

More than 250,000 people in the U.S. fracture a hip every year – and long-term outcomes are bleak. Two years after experiencing a hip fracture, the majority of patients who could previously walk without assistance and climb stairs are unable to resume these activities, Latham said.

In an interview with Fox News, Latham noted that the average age of study participants was 78 or 79, so that “many of them have more than a decade of life or more left. It’s so worth investing in these people,” she said. “We didn’t study the cost [of our program], but the cost of moving someone to long-term care is enormous for the system.”

The study was funded by a grant from the National Institute of Nursing Research.

Submitted by Lisa Chedekel