Yoga has been found to improve recovery in stroke patients. It might be beneficial to include yoga in the in-patient or out-patient rehabilitation people receive after a stroke, researchers have suggested.
A study looking into the value of adapted yoga for stroke rehabilitation found that after an eight-week program, study participants demonstrated improved balance and flexibility, a stronger and faster gait, and increased strength and endurance.
The study, involving researchers from the Richard L. Roudebush VA Medical Center in Indianapolis, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and IU Bloomington, exposed older veterans recovering from stroke to yoga.
The men and women had completed their post-stroke occupational and physical therapy before the study but continued to have impairments.
Arlene Schmid, rehabilitation research scientist at the Roudebush VA Medical Center and principle investigator of the VA-funded study, said loss of functional strength, flexibility and endurance is common after a stroke, which can lead to long-term disability.
"Clinicians need methods to manage and improve these post-stroke physical impairments," said Schmid, also an assistant professor of occupational therapy in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences at IUPUI.
Her analysis examined gains in functional strength, flexibility and endurance as a result of the yoga and found significant improvements in all areas. The yoga activities, she said in her report, might have "improved neuromuscular control, likely allowing for strength improvements in affected limbs, sides or areas of disuse."
Tracy Dierks, associate professor of physical therapy in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, focused his analysis of study findings on how well study participants could walk after the program.
He reported that after the yoga program, the study participants showed improved balance and faster gait speeds with longer steps or strides. But, while the veterans could walk faster, they were unable to sustain this faster speed for the duration of the six-minute test.
"The gait findings from our study have the potential to greatly impact clinical practice for gait recovery. The yoga intervention was designed to improve balance, not gait; we did not focus on improving gait at all. Yet we saw major improvements in most clinical gait measurements. But one often overlooked deficit remained: the inability to sustain gait speed for endurance," Dierks said.
The findings from two new analyses of the study will be presented on Wednesday during the annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine in San Francisco.