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Even Light Exercise Can Speed Stroke Recovery

HealthDay News
by -- Robert Preidt
Updated: Apr 13th 2020

new article illustration

MONDAY, April 13, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Even light exercise can counter the damage of stroke in survivors, a new study suggests.

"Stroke is a major cause of disability in older adults," said research leader Neha Gothe, a professor of kinesiology and community health at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

"We know that physical activity can improve how well people survive a stroke and recover after the fact," Gothe said. "But almost no research has looked at how physical activity of different intensities affects physical function among stroke survivors."

For the study, Gothe and her colleagues assessed daily physical activity in 30 stroke survivors for a week, looking at how much they moved and how well they could do routine daily physical tasks such as getting in and out of a car or pouring water from a heavy pitcher.

On average, the study participants did only about seven minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity a day, the findings showed.

"In contrast, they averaged more than three hours of light physical activity each day," Gothe said. "This includes things like walking at a leisurely pace, housekeeping, light gardening or other activities that do not cause a person to break a sweat."

The amount of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity was the best predictor of the stroke survivors' levels of physical function, but their ability to perform daily tasks was much more closely associated with the amount of time they did light physical activity, such as leisurely walks or non-strenuous household chores.

The study was published online recently in the American Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

"Our findings are preliminary but suggest that -- in addition to moderate-to-vigorous physical activity -- those daily routines that keep us on our feet and physically engaged in lighter tasks also contribute to better physical functioning in stroke survivors," Gothe said in a university news release.

"Engaging in light physical activity can be healthy and beneficial, especially for those with chronic health conditions such as stroke," Gothe concluded.

More information

The American Stroke Association has more on life after a stroke.