Effects of Twice-Weekly Intense Aerobic Exercise in Early Subacute Stroke: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2016 Aug;97(8):1244-53. doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2016.01.030. Epub 2016 Feb 20.


Objective: To examine the effects of 12 weeks of twice-weekly intensive aerobic exercise on physical function and quality of life after subacute stroke.

Design: Randomized controlled trial.

Setting: Ambulatory care.

Participants: Patients (N=56; 28 women) aged ≥50 years who had a mild stroke (98% ischemic) and were discharged to independent living and enrolled 20 days (median) after stroke onset.

Interventions: Sixty minutes of group aerobic exercise, including 2 sets of 8 minutes of exercise with intensity up to exertion level 14 or 15 of 20 on the Borg rating of perceived exertion scale, twice weekly for 12 weeks (n=29). The nonintervention group (n=27) received no organized rehabilitation or scheduled physical exercise.

Main outcome measures: Primary outcome measures included aerobic capacity on the standard ergometer exercise stress test (peak work rate) and walking distance on the 6-minute walk test (6MWT). Secondary outcome measures included maximum walking speed for 10m, balance on the timed Up and Go (TUG) test and single leg stance (SLS), health-related quality of life on the European Quality of Life Scale (EQ-5D), and participation and recovery after stroke on the Stroke Impact Scale (SIS) version 2.0 domains 8 and 9. Participants were evaluated pre- and postintervention. Patient-reported measures were also evaluated at 6-month follow-up.

Results: The following improved significantly more in the intervention group (pre- to postintervention): peak work rate (group × time interaction, P=.006), 6MWT (P=.011), maximum walking speed for 10m (P<.001), TUG test (P<.001), SLS right and left (eyes open) (P<.001 and P=.022, respectively), and SLS right (eyes closed) (P=.019). Aerobic exercise was associated with improved EQ-5D scores (visual analog scale, P=.008) and perceived recovery (SIS domain 9, P=.002). These patient-reported improvements persisted at 6-month follow-up.

Conclusions: Intensive aerobic exercise twice weekly early in subacute mild stroke improved aerobic capacity, walking, balance, health-related quality of life, and patient-reported recovery.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT02107768.

Keywords: Exercise; Quality of life; Randomized controlled trial [publication type]; Rehabilitation; Stroke.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Exercise / psychology
  • Exercise Tolerance
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiopathology
  • Physical Therapy Modalities*
  • Postural Balance
  • Prospective Studies
  • Quality of Life*
  • Stroke Rehabilitation / methods*
  • Stroke Rehabilitation / psychology

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT02107768