Prestroke physical activity is associated with good functional outcome and arterial recanalization after stroke due to a large vessel occlusion

Cerebrovasc Dis. 2014;37(4):304-11. doi: 10.1159/000360809. Epub 2014 May 21.


Background: Although multiple studies and meta-analyses have consistently suggested that regular physical activity (PhA) is associated with a decreased stroke risk and recurrence, there is limited data on the possible preconditioning effect of prestroke PhA on stroke severity and prognosis. We aimed to study the association of prestroke PhA with different outcome variables in patients with acute ischemic stroke due to an anterior large vessel occlusion.

Methods: The Prestroke Physical Activity and Functional Recovery in Patients with Ischemic Stroke and Arterial Occlusion trial is an observational and longitudinal study that included consecutive patients with acute ischemic stroke admitted to a single tertiary stroke center. Main inclusion criteria were: anterior circulation ischemic stroke within 12 h from symptom onset; presence of a confirmed anterior large vessel occlusion, and functional independence previous to stroke. Prestroke PhA was evaluated with the International Physical Activity Questionnaire and categorized into mild, moderate and high levels by means of metabolic equivalent (MET) minutes per week thresholds. The primary outcome measure was good functional outcome at 3 months (modified Rankin scale ≤2). Secondary outcomes were severity of stroke at admission, complete early recanalization, early dramatic neurological improvement and final infarct volume.

Results: During the study period, 159 patients fulfilled the above criteria. The mean age was 68 years, 62% were men and the baseline NIHSS score was 17. Patients with high levels of prestroke PhA were younger, had more frequently distal occlusions and had lower levels of blood glucose and fibrinogen at admission. After multivariate analysis, a high level of prestroke PhA was associated with a good functional outcome at 3 months. Regarding secondary outcome variables and after adjustment for relevant factors, a high level of prestroke PhA was independently associated with milder stroke severity at admission, early dramatic improvement, early arterial recanalization after intravenous thrombolysis and lower final infarct volume. The beneficial association of prestroke PhA with stroke outcomes was already present with a cutoff point of 1,000 MET min/week, a level of PhA easily achieved by walking 1 h/day during 5 days or by doing a vigorous aerobic activity 1 h/day twice a week.

Conclusions: Prestroke PhA is independently associated with favorable stroke outcomes after a large vessel occlusion. Future research on the underlying mechanisms is needed to understand this neuroprotective effect of PhA.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Arterial Occlusive Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Brain Ischemia / drug therapy*
  • Female
  • Fibrinolytic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity*
  • Prognosis
  • Recovery of Function*
  • Stroke / drug therapy*
  • Thrombolytic Therapy / methods
  • Tissue Plasminogen Activator / therapeutic use*


  • Fibrinolytic Agents
  • Tissue Plasminogen Activator