Exercise significantly improves clinical measures of cognitive function in adults who have experienced a stroke, a new study finds.
Stroke survivors not only have twice the risk for dementia, but stroke-related cognitive decline can reduce functional independence and lead to reduced quality of life, according to the researchers. Interventions may help to increase brain function and even help prevent dementia, they added.
The study was a single-site, randomized clinical trial at a research center in Vancouver, British Columbia in Canada. Participants included 120 community-dwelling adults aged 55 years and older who could walk 6 meters and did not have dementia. All had had a prior stroke. The trial included a 6-month intervention and a 6-month follow-up.
Three cohorts received twice-weekly supervised classes in either EX, a multicomponent exercise program; ENRICH, a program of cognitive and social enrichment activities; or in balance and tone (BAT), a control group that included stretches and light-intensity exercises. Cognitive capabilities were measured using the Alzheimer Disease Assessment Scale-Cognitive-Plus (ADAS-Cog-Plus) test.
At the conclusion of the 6-month intervention, the multicomponent exercise program significantly boosted cognitive performance when compared with the balance and tone exercises. Improvements were seen in memory, attention and executive functions. The differences were not seen at a six-month follow-up after program completion.
Overall, the results showed that exercise “induced a shift from the state of cognitive impairment to more normal cognitive functioning,” the researchers noted.
“The findings of this randomized clinical trial suggest that exercise can induce clinically important improvements in cognitive function in adults with chronic stroke and, thus, should be recommended to promote cognitive health in this clinical population at risk for dementia,” the authors concluded.
Full findings were published in JAMA Network Open.