A new study published in JAMA Network Open has shown that increased physical activity leads to better functional outcomes in the six months following a stroke.
The study included over 1,300 participants with a median age of 72 years in Sweden. Participants were recruited between 2 and 15 days after having a stroke and were followed for the 6 months. During the follow-up period, participants’ physical activity levels were assessed at 1 week, 1 month, 3 months, and 6 months following their stroke. Their physical activity trajectories were noted over time, and their functional recovery from the stroke was measured at 6 months.
The results showed that participants fell into two groups: an “increaser” group that showed an increase in physical activity that was sustained at light intensity between 1 week and 6 months post-stroke, and a “decreaser” group that showed a decline in physical activity that led to being inactive over the course of the study. Those who increased or maintained their physical activity, with an average of about 4 hours of exercise a week, had over two times the likelihood of a good functional recovery from their stroke after 6 months than the group that decreased their activity and became inactive.
The lead author of the study noted that exercise can “reprogram” both the brain and body following a stroke. Additionally, exercise leads to better recovery at the cellular level, improved overall wellbeing, and enhanced cardiovascular health while decreasing the risk of depression, cognition problems, and falls. Getting a healthy amount of exercise is important for all people, and the results of this study suggest that it is especially important for those recovering from a stroke.