In brief: Exercise 'vital for stroke patients'

PHOTO: In brief: Exercise 'vital for stroke patients'

Exercise is critical for patients who have had a stroke.

Stroke survivors should be prescribed exercise because they experience physical deconditioning and lead inactive lifestyles after their strokes. That decreases their ability to perform daily activities, and increases their risk of having another stroke, say the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association.

"There is strong evidence that physical activity and exercise after stroke can improve cardiovascular fitness, walking ability and upper arm strength," said Dr Sandra Billinger, a physical therapist at the University of Kansas Medical Centre in the United States.

"In addition, emerging research suggests exercise may improve depressive symptoms, cognitive function, memory and quality of life after stroke."

Stroke survivors need to overcome several barriers to exercise - including the severity of their stroke, fatigue, depression, lack of social support, affordability and motivation.

Health-care providers need to help stroke patients develop the skills and confidence they need to begin and maintain an exercise programme that includes aerobic exercise and strength training as part of their stroke care, Dr Billinger stressed.

"The key to exercise is that it only works if done consistently," she added.

"Anything is better than just sitting on the couch."

In Singapore, one recent study found that three out of five stroke patients had no intention of continuing the rehabilitation started while they were in hospital - even before they were discharged.

And by the end of the year, even the two in five who had started off with keen interest would be whittled down to just one in 20 still on the regime.

This article was first published on May 25, 2014. Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.