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Exercise-Based Cardiac Rehab Beneficial for Stroke Survivors

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 27, 2021 -- Exercise-based cardiac rehabilitation (CR) can improve cardiovascular endurance and health status among stroke survivors, according to a study published online Jan. 27 in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

Elizabeth W. Regan, Ph.D., D.P.T., from the University of South Carolina in Columbia, and colleagues integrated subacute and chronic survivors of stroke into a standard, 12-week exercise-based CR program that included three sessions per week. Twenty-nine and 24 patients began and completed the program, respectively; 18 were available for follow-up at six months. After the program, 11 participants completed semistructured interviews.

From preprogram to postprogram, the researchers observed a significant impact for exercise-based CR on cardiovascular exercise endurance, with maintenance at six-month follow-up. The average improvement on the six-minute walk test was 61.92 m, and there was a median improvement of 3.6 in maximum metabolic equivalents. From preprogram to postprogram, the investigators observed a median improvement of 2.85 s in the five times sit-to-stand test. Additional health improvements were highlighted in qualitative findings. At follow-up, 15 of the 18 participants reported continued exercise.

"We hope prescribing cardiac rehab will be considered for all patients following a stroke, as it is for patients after a heart attack," Regan said in a statement. "We need to place value on exercise as medicine. Exercise is health, and it is important for every individual, regardless of physical limitations or age. Hopefully, increasing physical activity can be one of the first steps to improving overall health following a stroke."

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