Critical illness survivors have impairments across physical, psychological, and cognitive health domains known as post–intensive care syndrome. Although physical activity can improve outcomes across all health domains, most intensive care unit early mobility studies focus solely on physical outcomes.


To explore the role of early mobility for adult patients in the intensive care unit by analyzing early mobility intervention studies with physical, psychological, or cognitive outcome measures.


This integrative review used Whittemore and Knafl’s methodology and Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses guidelines. CINAHL, Embase, PubMed, PsycINFO, and Scopus databases were searched for primary research articles published from 2005 through 2021 on adult intensive care unit early mobility interventions evaluated by physical, cognitive, or psychological outcome measures during or after intervention delivery. Interventions comprising only passive mobility were excluded.


Of 1009 articles screened, 20 were included. Variations in outcome measures, measurement timing, instruments, and control groups made synthesis difficult. No study evaluated an intervention using outcome measures from all 3 health domains. Five studies measured physical and cognitive outcomes; 6 studies measured physical and psychological outcomes.


Early mobility is primarily addressed objectively and unidimensionally, limiting understanding of the implications of early mobility for patients. Post–intensive care syndrome prevention begins in the intensive care unit; early mobility is a promising intervention for targeting multiple risk factors. Studies that measure outcomes in all health domains during or after early mobility are needed to better evaluate the comprehensive effects of early mobility.

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