- Physical therapy is good for stroke recovery
- Regaining the ability to walk is a very important goal for most stroke patients with mobility impairments
- Daily aerobic exercises can improve endurance and help stroke patients to walk again after a stroke
Disabled stroke patients who regularly perform aerobic exercises are more likely to boost their endurance levels and regain the ability to walk again, reports a new study.
Stroke survivors who completed group-based aerobic exercise programs similar in design and duration to cardiac rehabilitation programs significantly improved their aerobic endurance and walking ability, according to new research in Journal of the American Heart Association, the Open Access Journal of the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association.
Importance of Physical Therapy for Stroke Patients
"The physical therapy we currently provide to patients after a stroke focuses more on improving the ability to move and move well rather than on increasing how far and long you can move," said Elizabeth Regan, DPT, study lead author, and Ph.D. candidate in Exercise Science at the University of South Carolina. "It doesn't matter how well you can walk if your endurance level keeps you at home."
Details of the Study
Nearly 500 adults average ages between 54-71 completed aerobic exercise programs similar in structure to cardiac rehabilitation. Participants attended two to three sessions per week for about three months. Of nearly two dozen different exercise groups, walking was the most common type of activity, followed by stationary cycling and then mixed mode aerobic exercise. Physical abilities were tested before and after the intervention.
Findings of the Study
Looking at results by activity type, the research team found:
"These benefits were realized regardless of how long it had been since their stroke," Regan said. "Our analysis included stroke survivors across a wide range, from less than six months to greater than a year since their stroke, and the benefits were seen whether they started an aerobic exercise program one month or one year after having a stroke."
"Cardiac rehab programs may be a viable option for patients after a stroke who have health risks and endurance losses similar to traditional cardiac rehab participants," said Stacy Fritz, Ph.D., PT, the study's co-author and associate professor of exercise science in the Physical Therapy Program at the University of South Carolina. "Almost every hospital has a cardiac rehab program, so it's an existing platform that could be used for stroke survivors. Funneling patients with stroke into these existing programs may be an easy, cost-effective solution with long-term benefits."
While this study suggests group-based aerobic exercise programs improve health and endurance in stroke survivors, no control group analysis was performed for results comparison. Limited follow-up data were available to determine whether the health benefits persisted.