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Exercise ‘pivotal’ in post-stroke recovery

Those who take part in physical activity for four hours a week see a better functional recovery, study reveals

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Stroke survivors who spend four hours a week exercising achieve better functional recovery within six months than those who do not, new research reveals. 

Physical activity after stroke was hailed as being “pivotal” to successful recovery by researchers, who involved 1,500 patients in the study. 

The results show that increased or maintained physical activity, with four hours of exercise weekly, doubled the patients’ chances of recovering well by six months after a stroke. 

Men and people with improved cognition were found to be more likely to keep to a regular exercise routine, with better recovery as a result.

The researchers, from the University of Gothenburg, have previously shown a clear inverse association between physical activity and the severity of stroke symptoms at the actual onset of the condition. 

These new findings highlight the great importance of maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle after a stroke, and supplement previous research illustrating the importance of exercise as part of recovery.

“Physical activity reprograms both the brain and the body favourably after a stroke,” says Dongni Buvarp, first author of the study and a researcher in clinical neuroscience at Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg. 

“Exercise improves the body’s recovery at the cellular level, boosts muscle strength and well-being, and reduces the risk of falls, depression, and cardiovascular disease. 

“Regardless of how severe the stroke has been, those affected can derive benefits from exercising more.

“Being physically active is hugely important, especially after a stroke. That’s a message that health professionals, stroke victims and their loved ones should all know.”

While men and those with better cognition were shown to be more likely to pursue an active lifestyle after stroke, women and people with cognition issues are missing out on greater opportunities for recovery through lack of activity, Buvarp says.  

“Women and people with impaired cognition seem to become less active after stroke. The study results indicate that these groups need more support to get going with physical activity,” she adds. 

The study involved patients from across 35 hospitals in Sweden, although it does not factor in how active they were before their stroke. 

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