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SAMJ: South African Medical Journal

On-line version ISSN 2078-5135
Print version ISSN 0256-9574


BERINGER, C B; WELLS, M  and  GOLDSTEIN, L N. Let's get physical: A prospective pedometer study of doctors working in a South African emergency department. SAMJ, S. Afr. med. j. [online]. 2020, vol.110, n.11, pp.1124-1127. ISSN 2078-5135.

BACKGROUND. The positive impact of physical activity and exercise on health is well known. Individuals who walk at least 10 000 steps per day are likely to meet recommended physical activity guidelines. Very little is known about the physical activity levels of doctors at work, in particular those working in emergency departments (EDs).OBJECTIVES. To determine how many steps per shift were taken by doctors in a South African (SA) ED. Secondary objectives were to assess what factors influenced the number of steps taken.METHODS. This was a prospective observational cohort study in a tertiary academic teaching hospital ED in Johannesburg over a 1 -month period. Doctors wore pedometers during their day shifts in the ED and the number of steps taken during their shifts was measured, as well as the number and triage category of patients seen and whether cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) was performed.RESULTS. The median (interquartile range) number of steps taken per shift was 6 328 (4 646 - 8 409). The number of steps taken exceeded the 10 000-step target in only 11.7% of shifts. The overall mean (standard deviation (SD)) number of steps per hour was 744 (490). Factors that significantly increased the number of steps taken included shift duration, number of patients seen who were triaged yellow, and performance of CPR in a shift. Each additional hour of shift led to a mean (SD) increase of 575 (115) steps. Each additional yellow patient seen led to a mean (SD) increase of 118 (108) steps. The mean (SD) number of steps for a shift with CPR was significantly higher (8 309 (850) steps) than for a shift without CPR (6 496 (384) steps).CONCLUSIONS. Doctors working in an SA ED are not achieving the daily recommended number of steps while at work. The increased risk of ill health and burnout in an already high-risk specialty heightens the importance of exercise and physical activity that needs to be achieved outside the workplace.

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