Light exercise for four hours a week increases stroke survivability

Researchers believe stroke victims can greatly boost their chances of survival through a very simple addition to the day’s activities.

A study, published in the journal Neurology, looked at the effectiveness of different forms of physical therapy on the long-term survival chances of stroke survivors. And the results were astounding.

It found that people recovering from stroke who walk or garden for just three to four hours per week or ride a bike for two to three hours could lower their risk of death by up to 54 per cent.

Stroke is a serious medical condition caused by poor blood flow to the brain causing cell death. This can lead to parts of the brain atrophying and brain function stopping, and can lead to permanent physical and mental disability.

In Australia, roughly one person every 19 minutes suffers from stroke and more than 445,000 Australians are living with the effects of a stroke. According to the Stroke Foundation, stroke is one of the country’s largest killers and takes the lives of more women than breast cancer, and more men than prostate cancer.

Read: Obsessive compulsive disorder linked to increased stroke risk

Even for those who survive stroke it can take extensive physical therapy and recovery time to get back to normal functioning, if that’s even possible.

The study looked at 895 people with an average age of 72 who had had a stroke and 97,805 people with an average age of 63 who had never had a stroke. The research was conducted over four-and-a-half years.

Researchers evaluated each participant’s average weekly physical activity via interview questions, gathering information about such activities as walking, running, gardening, weight training, cycling and swimming.

They found 15 per cent of people in the stroke group who exercised at least the equivalent of three to four hours of walking each week died during the follow-up period, compared to 33 per cent who didn’t exercise that minimum amount.

In the group of people who had never had strokes, 4 per cent of the people who exercised died, compared to 8 per cent who didn’t.

“A better understanding of the role of physical activity in the health of people who survive stroke is needed to design better exercise therapies and public health campaigns so we can help these individuals live longer,” co-author of the study Dr Raed Joundi told ScienceDaily.

“Our results are exciting, because just three to four hours a week of walking was associated with big reductions in mortality, and that may be attainable for many community members with prior stroke.

Read: Plea for action to halt stroke threat

“In addition, we found people achieved even greater benefit with walking six to seven hours per week. These results might have implications for guidelines for stroke survivors in the future.”

The results echoed similar findings by the Florey Institute of Neuroscience in 2019, which found that exercise, in particular cardio exercise, greatly improved brain function after stroke and slowed the brain atrophy process.

“Exercise seems to have slowed or stopped the atrophy on the opposite side of the brain, while possibly leading to new neuron growth on the side of the lesions,” Florey Institute co-head of dementia Dr Amy Brodtmann told TND.

“MRI scans could help us understand how exercise protects the brain after stroke.

“The study will help us pinpoint the intensity and frequency that is needed to improve brain function after a stroke.”

Have you or a loved one suffered from stroke? Was exercise a factor in the recovery? Why not share your experiences in the comments section below?

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Written by Brad Lockyer