A single session of moderate intensity walking increases brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in the chronic post-stroke patients

Top Stroke Rehabil. 2018 Jan;25(1):1-5. doi: 10.1080/10749357.2017.1373500. Epub 2017 Oct 27.


Background Aerobic exercise, even for short durations, may promote an increase in serum concentrations of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). However, it is necessary to determine the optimal exercise types and intensities to increase BDNF levels. Objectives This aim of this study was investigate the effects of mild and moderate intensity acute aerobic exercise on serum BDNF levels in patients in the chronic post-stroke phase. Methods The participants answered a socio-demographic questionnaire, cognitive assessment (Mini Mental State Examination), assessment of depressive symptoms (Hamilton Depression Scale), fatigue (Fatigue Severity Scale) and functional capacity (6-minute walk test). Blood samples were collected before and after each session. The measurement of the concentration of BDNF was performed using the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay . Patients were asked to walk for 30-min in the target training zone (mild intensity, 50-63% of maximum heart rate, and moderate intensity, 64-76% of maximum heart rate), once each week for 2 consecutive weeks. Results Our results indicate that 30 min of acute aerobic exercise at a moderate intensity, but not at a mild intensity, increases serum BDNF levels in the chronic post-stroke phase. Conclusions This study suggests a potential mechanism for the beneficial effects of exercise as a component of recovery from stroke, and provides the basis for future studies that will elucidate the specific parameters for clinical applications.

Keywords: Stroke; aerobic exercise; brain-derived neurotrophic factor; neuroplasticity; rehabilitation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / blood*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Stroke / blood*
  • Stroke / complications
  • Walking / physiology*


  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • BDNF protein, human