Activity Intolerance, Adult


Activity Intolerance (Adult Inpatient)

Clinical Description

  • Care of the hospitalized patient experiencing, or at risk for, insufficient physical or mental energy to complete required or desired daily activities or to sustain activities over time.

Key Information

  • Clinical judgment must be used to determine if it is appropriate to increase activity or participate in exercise. Most patients can benefit from some level of activity or exercise.

Clinical Goals

By transition of care

A. The patient will achieve the following goals:
  • Enhanced Capacity and Energy

B. Patient, family or significant other will teach back or demonstrate education topics and points:
  • Education: Overview
  • Education: Self Management
  • Education: When to Seek Medical Attention

Correlate Health Status

  • Correlate health status to:

    • history, comorbidity
    • age, developmental level
    • sex, gender identity
    • baseline assessment data
    • physiologic status
    • response to medication and interventions
    • psychosocial status, social determinants of health
    • barriers to accessing care and services
    • health literacy
    • cultural and spiritual preferences
    • safety risks
    • family interaction
    • plan for transition of care

Activity Intolerance


  • cyanosis
  • diaphoresis
  • dizziness
  • dysrhythmia
  • fatigue
  • generalized weakness
  • inability to perform BADLs (basic activities of daily living)
  • inability to perform IADLs (instrumental activities of daily living)
  • nausea
  • pain increased during or after activity
  • pallor
  • shortness of breath during or after activity
  • syncope
  • visual disturbance

Vital Signs

  • significant vital sign change with activity

Problem Intervention

Optimize Activity Tolerance

  • Assess patient’s current rating of perceived exertion; compare to previous level.
  • Cluster, coordinate and organize care schedule per patient preference, priorities and tolerance.
  • Preplan and pace activity; balance activity with periods of rest; allow for uninterrupted sleep.
  • Support coping and manage anxiety to minimize energy expenditure.
  • Encourage gradual increase of activity as condition improves.
  • Position for optimal comfort and activity tolerance (e.g., sitting for self-care).
  • Monitor physiologic response to activity; adjust accordingly.
  • Provide range of motion actions (active, passive or assistive) per prescribed limitations.
  • Promote nutrition intake to optimize energy.
  • Determine need for assistive and adaptive equipment to facilitate activity.

Associated Documentation

  • Activity Management
  • Self-Care Promotion
  • Environmental Support


CPG-Specific Education Topics


  • risk factors

  • signs/symptoms

Self Management

  • activity

  • assistive/adaptive devices

  • energy conservation

  • fluid/food intake

When to Seek Medical Attention

  • unresolved/worsening symptoms

General Education Topics

General Education

  • admission, transition of care

  • orientation to care setting, routine

  • advance care planning

  • diagnostic tests/procedures

  • diet modification

  • opioid medication management

  • oral health

  • medication management

  • pain assessment process

  • safe medication disposal

  • tobacco use, smoke exposure

  • treatment plan

Safety Education

  • call light use

  • equipment/home supplies

  • fall prevention

  • harm prevention

  • infection prevention

  • MDRO (multidrug-resistant organism) care

  • personal health information

  • resources for support

Population-Specific Considerations


  • Older adults are at higher risk of losing ability to function and tolerate activity when hospitalized, even those with a good baseline of activity and function on admission. A person 75 years of age has half the skeletal muscle of a healthy young adult.


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Clinical Practice Guidelines represent a consistent/standardized approach to the care of patients with specific diagnoses. Care should always be individualized by adding patient specific information to the Plan of Care.