It never hurts to keep an eye on your health. And this is especially true when you’re in recovery from stroke. But with the lifestyle changes that accompany stroke, it isn’t always easy to keep on top of things. Take aerobic exercise, for example. Depending on the extent of your disability you might think that the benefits of a more intense workout are off the table for the time being. But by using assisted walking and cycle ergometry training, it might still be possible to get involved when you’re unable to walk alone. The question is how much benefit do non-ambulatory patients really get from these types of training?
Researchers from Scotland looked at data from 33 studies recruiting a total of more than 900 non-ambulatory patients. Most of the studies involved patients with relatively recent stroke (in the last six months). A few included patients in the chronic phase of stroke (more than six months previously and where continued exercise can help prevent recurrent stroke).
Let’s get physical
The researchers found that overall, there were signs that this type of assisted exercise can benefit non-ambulatory patients. Compared with ‘control’ groups, patients who received additional training via an assisted walking program experienced improvements in aerobic measures (heart rate, oxygen uptake, etc.) and walking endurance and speed. And a cycle ergometer group showed significant improvements in aerobic measures. There were also corresponding improvements in HDL cholesterol levels, insulin levels, and daily activities. This suggests that cycle ergometer-based programs might just beat assisted walking in these patients.
Get up and ride!
So while we’re not suggesting you sign up to run a marathon or cycle in the Tour de France just yet (and definitely not before you’ve talked to your physician!), it seems that assisted aerobic exercise could offer real benefits to patients who are experiencing stroke-related disability. Using a more conventional approach to therapy might expose them to health risks associated with a more sedentary lifestyle.
The lead author of this article is Megan Lloyd, School of Health and Life Sciences, Glasgow Caledonian University, Glasgow, UK.