Physical activity levels in hospitalised adults with burn injuries

Ms Anita Plaza1, Dr Julie  Adsett1, Dr Angela  Byrnes2, Ms Prue McRae2

1Physiotherapy Department, Royal Brisbane And Women’s Hospital, Brisbane, Australia, 2Internal Medicine Research Unit, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, Brisbane, Australia


Background: Physical activity, encompassing both mobility and exercise participation, has been promoted in burn rehabilitation to improve function and quality of life. However, actual physical activity behaviours have yet to be formally described in hospitalised adults after burn injury.
Aim: To describe patient behaviour related to physical activity in an adult burn centre.
Methods: A prospective, cross-sectional study was conducted at the burn centre, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital. A standardised behavioural mapping protocol was undertaken to observe patient behaviour related to physical activity over a 12-hour period on one weeday (6am to 6pm). Structured observations were recorded for four domains: 1) patient location, 2) position, 3) activity performed and 4) the presence of others. Observations were summarised across all participants as median (IQR) proportion of time.
Results: Participants (n=17) were predominantly male (82%), mean age of 44.3 (SD 15.2) years, mean burn size of 34.9% (SD 26.7) total body surface area and median hospital length of stay of 18 (IQR 6-49) days at time of observation. Participants spent a median of 83% (IQR 73-93) of time in their bedroom, 92% (IQR 68-97) of time in or on their bed and 5% (IQR 3-13) of time mobilising. Exercise accounted for 10% (IQR 8-17) of activity related observations. A median of 68% of time was spent alone.
Conclusion: Despite a strong rehabilitation focus, results suggest that time spent engaging in physical activity is low. Further studies are required to investigate motivators and barriers to performing physical activity during hospitalisation.


Anita Plaza is a Consultant Physiotherapist at the Professor Stuart Pegg Adult Burn Centre, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, Queensland. She has greater than 25 years of clinical experience working with both adults and children who have sustained burn injuries. Her current clinical research interests include telehealth exercise prescription, physical activity level mapping and adherence to physiotherapy programs after burn injuries, ultimately with the aim of improving outcomes for all patients with burn injuries.

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