Background: Regular physical activity is known to have a beneficial impact on multiple cardiovascular risk factors, but there is no routine provision of exercise training programs to patients after ischemic stroke.
Objectives: To assess the tolerability, safety and effect of an outpatient supervised exercise training program in patients after a non-disabling ischemic stroke.
Methods: Patients discharged home following a minor ischemic stroke (modified Rankin scale; mRS ≤ 2) were referred to a 3 month outpatient supervised exercise training program, performed twice weekly as prescribed by a physiologist and supervised by physical therapy. Exercise capacity was evaluated by the 6 minute walk test, and by the modified Bruce exercise test.
Results: Of the 52 patients who met the selection criteria, 43 underwent supervised exercise training within 2 months of stroke onset and 9 did not (control group). The baseline characteristics were comparable between the two groups. Following the exercise training program, an improvement in exercise capacity was observed manifested by improvement in the 6 minute walk test (444 ± 90 to 557 ± 99 meters in the exercise group vs. 438 ± 101 to 418 ± 126 in the control group; P = 0.002 for the score changes) and in the exercise duration achieved in the modified Bruce test and the metabolic equivalents achieved [9.6 ± 3.7 to 12.4 ± 3.2 minutes and 6.2 ± 2.8 to 8.5 ± 3.4 respectively in the exercise group (n=41) vs. 9.2 ± 3.5 to 8.0 ± 3.4 min and 5.8 ± 1.8 to 5.8 ± 2.8 in the control group (n=7); P = 0.0009 and 0.01 for score changes, respectively].
Conclusions: An outpatient supervised exercise training program after a minor ischemic stroke is feasible, well tolerated and is associated with improvement in exercise capacity. We strongly recommend that an aerobic exercise program be offered to suitable patients after an ischemic stroke.