Regular outdoor walking boosts the endurance and resting heart rate of people who have suffered a stroke, according to a new study.
Regular outdoor walking aids recover after a stroke
Every year over 150,000 people in England have a stroke, and it is the third largest cause of death after heart disease and cancer.
Survivors of a stroke often need a long period of rehabilitation before they recover their former independence, and many lack energy and develop a fear of falling.
But recent research from scientists at the University of West Indies in Jamaica has shown that regular brisk walking can greatly improve fitness and quality of life after a stroke, aiding the recovery process.
It involved 128 men and women with an average age of 64, all of whom had suffered a stroke between six and 24 months before starting the studye.
The team created a walking programme for stroke survivors who were able to walk independently or with a cane.
Whilst some of the patients were given usual care with therapeutic massage, others took part in the walking programme.
These participants initially walked a 15 minute route three times a week accompanied by a supervisor, but built up to a 30 minute route over the three month study period.
Writing in the journal Stroke, the researchers found that the patients who took up walking had a 16.7% improved quality of life compared with those who had the usual care, because of better physical health.
Those in the massage only group had a 6.7% higher resting heart rate after three months, and the walkers could get 17.6% further in a six minute walking endurance test.
Previous studies have already found the benefits of low-stress exercise on stroke recovery, but using exercise equipment such as stationary bikes and treadmills. Study leader Dr Carron Gordon said:
"Walking can help control blood pressure, reduce lipid or fat levels and help with weight control - all cardiovascular risk factors."
Dr Clare Walton of the Stroke Association said: “Although the results of this study are not surprising, it is good to see that walking alone can have such positive effects on quality of life."
As part of rehabilitation, all stroke patients with or without medical insurance should be seen by a physiotherapist, who will assess the extent of any physical disability before drawing up a treatment plan.
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