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08-10-2012 | Physical rehabilitation | Article

Physical activity fights cognitive dysfunction after stroke


Meeting website

medwireNews: A program of aerobic and resistance training helps patients overcome cognitive deficits occurring as a result of stroke, shows research presented at the 3rd Canadian Stroke Congress in Calgary, Alberta.

The investigators found that the number of patients with mild cognitive impairment or greater decreased from 66% to 37% following 6 months of combined physical training.

"People who have cognitive deficits after stroke have a threefold [increased] risk of mortality, and they're more likely to be institutionalized," commented Susan Marzolini (Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, Ontario, Canada) in a press statement.

"If we can improve cognition through exercise, which also has many physical benefits, then this should become a standard of care for people following stroke."

Marzolini and team enrolled 41 stroke patients with motor impairments at least 10 weeks poststroke to take part in a 6-month combined aerobic and resistance exercise program. The exercises were adapted to be suitable for stroke patients and included walking, lifting weights, and doing squats 5 days a week.

The patients underwent cognitive testing before and after the program began, using the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA).

Following completion of the exercise program, the mean MoCA score increased significantly, from 22.5 at baseline to 24.0 at 6 months. This was particularly noticeable in the subdomains of attention/concentration and visuospatial/executive function, both of which increased significantly from 4.7 to 5.2 and from 3.4 to 3.9, respectively.

The team noted that there was a positive linear association between change in cognitive function and change in muscle mass, as well as between change in gas exchange anaerobic threshold and change in concentration/attention.

Although the researchers did not include a control group who did not exercise, Marzolini said "these results provide compelling evidence that by improving cardiovascular fitness through aerobic exercise and increasing muscle mass with resistance training, people with stroke can improve brain health."

She added: "Modified exercise programs are desperately needed ‑ they can be adapted for people following stroke, and we think they can provide huge health benefits."

medwireNews ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2012

By Helen Albert, Senior medwireNews Reporter

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