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Physical activity may promote cognitive recovery poststroke

13 Nov 2017

Physical activity (PA) training appears to positively affect cognition in stroke survivors, with small to moderate gains achieved even if introduced in the chronic stroke phase, a study has found.

Researchers performed a systematic review and meta-analysis of trials investigating the relationship between structured PA training and cognitive performance after stroke. Intervention effects, represented as Hedges’ g, were combined using random- and mixed-effects models. Effect sizes were then subjected to moderation analyses using the between-group heterogeneity test.

Pooled data from 14 studies, which involved 736 participants, showed that PA had a positive overall effect on cognitive performance (Hedges’ g, 0.304; 95 percent CI, 0.14 to 0.47).

Cognitive benefits were achieved as early as 12 weeks of PA training. The largest cognitive gains were seen with combined aerobic and strength training programmes, which also yielded improvements in cognitive performance even in the chronic stroke phase (mean, 2.6 years poststroke).

In particular, there were positive moderate treatment effects found for attention/processing speed measures (Hedges’ g, 0.37; 0.10 to 0.63), while those observed for executive function and working memory domains did not reach significance (p>0.05).

The present data indicate that PA training may reduce the burden of cognitive deficits in stroke survivors, researchers said.

Additionally, the study underscores several critical avenues for future work, such as identifying the ideal window of time after a stroke and the optimal training parameters needed to maximize cognitive recovery, they added.

Researchers recommended including participants with more severe levels of cognitive and physical impairment in future trials to enhance generalizability, as well as to help inform and tailor PA according to the needs and abilities of these patients.

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