A randomized, controlled pilot study of a home-based exercise program for individuals with mild and moderate stroke
Background and Purpose—Many stroke survivors have minimal to moderate neurological deficits but are physically deconditioned and have a high prevalence of cardiovascular problems; all of these are potentially modifiable with exercise. The purposes of this randomized, controlled pilot study were (1) to develop a home-based balance, strength, and endurance program; (2) to evaluate the ability to recruit and retain stroke subjects; and (3) to assess the effects of the interventions used.
Methods—Twenty minimally and moderately impaired stroke patients who had completed inpatient rehabilitation and who were 30 to 90 days after stroke onset were randomized to a control group or to an experimental group that received a therapist-supervised, 8-week, 3-times-per-week, home-based exercise program. The control group received usual care as prescribed by the patients' physicians. Baseline and postintervention assessments included the Fugl-Meyer Motor Assessment, the Barthel Index of Activities of Daily Living (ADL), the Lawton Scale of Instrumental ADL, and the Medical Outcomes Study–36 Health Status Measurement. Functional assessments of balance and gait included a 10-m walk, 6-Minute Walk, and the Berg Balance Scale. Upper extremity function was evaluated by the Jebsen Test of Hand Function.
Results—Of 22 patients who met study criteria, 20 completed the study and 2 refused to participate. The experimental group tended to improve more than the control group in motor function (Fugl-Meyer Upper Extremity: mean change in score, 8.4 versus 2.2; Fugl-Meyer Lower Extremity: 4.7 versus -0.9; gait velocity: median change, 0.25 versus .09 m/s; 6-Minute Walk: 195 versus 114 ft; Berg Balance Score: 7.8 versus 5; and Medical Outcomes Study–36 Health Status Measurement of Physical Function: 15.5 versus 9). There were no trends in differences in change scores by the Jebsen Test of Hand Function, Barthel Index, and Lawton Instrumental ADL Scale.
Conclusions—This study demonstrated that a randomized, controlled clinical trial of a poststroke exercise program is feasible. Measures of neurological impairments and lower extremity function showed the most benefit. Effects of the intervention on upper extremity dexterity and functional health status were equivocal. The lasting effects of the intervention were not assessed.