Lack of activity during hospitalization may contribute to functional decline. The purpose of this study was to determine the frequency of hallway walking by older adults hospitalized for medical illness. The study was an observational time-sampled study, which was conducted in the hallways of 3 medical units of a 485-bed academic health care center. Each unit was observed weekdays for eight 3-hour intervals covering 8 AM to 8 PM. Before each observation, nursing staff were questioned about walking abilities of patients aged <or=55 years. During observation, frequency and minutes of patients' hallway ambulation were recorded. Of 118 patients considered by nurses as able to walk in the hallways, 18.6% walked once, 5.1% twice, 3.4% more than twice, and 72.9% did not walk at all per 3-hour period. The median minutes for ambulation was 5.5. Frequency of ambulation was as low for patients independent in walking as for those dependent (28% vs 26%, P=.507). Of the 32 patients who walked in the hallways, most did so alone (46.8%, n=15) or with therapy staff (41%, n=13); few walked with nursing staff (9.4%, n=3) or family (18.8%, n=6). In this setting, hallway walking was very low for hospitalized older patients. If this trend of limited walking is found to be prevalent across other settings, then both independent and dependent patients will require additional interventions to improve ambulation during hospitalization.