Toronto researchers have found that the proportion of stroke patients with at least mild cognitive impairment dropped from 66 per cent to 37 per cent during a research study on the impact of exercise on the brain. "People who have cognitive deficits after stroke have a threefold risk of mortality, and they're more likely to be institutionalized," says lead researcher Susan Marzolini of the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute. "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." Forty-one patients, of whom 70 per cent had mild to moderate walking problems requiring a cane or walker, followed an adapted aerobic and strength/resistance training program five days a week. Exercises designed to imitate daily life included walking, lifting weights and doing squats. The research team found significant improvement in overall brain function at the conclusion of the program, with the most gains in attention, concentration, planning and organizing. Muscular strength and walking ability also increased.
Marzolini emphasizes the need to give people with stroke-related impairments access to exercise programs. "Modified exercise programs are desperately needed -- they can be adapted for people following stroke, and we think they can provide huge health benefits." If someone in your life has experienced stroke, do your best to access an adapted exercise program that is designed for those who have mobility issues. The Canadian medical system is one of the best in the world at delivering acute care but when it comes to rehabilitation, advocacy for your loved one is often necessary. Exercise is almost always included in treatment plans for cardiovascular disease, but unfortunately often excluded in the follow-up care for other conditions. Reference: Science Daily (October 1, 2012). Exercise Improves Memory, Thinking After Stroke, Study Finds.