Aerobic exercise prior to task-specific training to improve poststroke motor function: A case series Academic Article uri icon


  • BACKGROUND:Aerobic exercise can improve upper limb motor function in both healthy and stroke populations. Research in animals after stroke has shown that aerobic exercise combined with forelimb motor training improved forelimb motor function more than aerobic exercise or motor training alone. There is a lack of knowledge about this combined intervention in humans after stroke. PURPOSE:These 2 case reports describe the exploratory implementation of a combined aerobic exercise and task-specific training intervention to improve upper limb motor function in one person in subacute stroke recovery and one person in chronic stroke recovery. METHODS:Case descriptions Subacute participant: 45-year-old female, 3 months after ischemic stroke resulting in left-sided hemiparesis affecting her non-dominant upper limb, with a baseline Action Research Arm Test (ARAT) score of 10/57 and Wolf Motor Function Test (WMFT) score of 39/75. Chronic participant: 69-year-old female, 14 years after ischemic stroke resulting in right-sided hemiparesis affecting her non-dominant upper limb, with a baseline ARAT score of 13/57 and WMFT score of 34/75. Intervention Participants performed 30 min of lower limb cycling immediately prior to 30 min of upper limb task-specific training. Sessions were undertaken 3 times a week for 8 weeks in a university rehabilitation laboratory. Results The combined intervention was feasible and perceived as acceptable and beneficial. Participants improved their upper limb motor function on the ARAT (subacute participant = 4 points; chronic participant = 2 points) and WMFT (subacute participant = 5 points; chronic participant = 3 points). Participants improved their aerobic fitness (subacute participant = +4.66 ml O2 /kg/min; chronic participant = +7.34 ml O2 /kg/min) and 6-minute walking distance (subacute participant = +50 m; chronic participant = +37 m). Discussion Combining aerobic exercise with task-specific training may be a worthwhile therapeutic approach to improve upper limb motor function suitable for persons in the subacute or chronic phase after stroke.

publication date

  • 2018