Stroke is a leading cause of disability in the U.S. and many Veteran stroke survivors live with severe disability. Despite recent advances in rehabilitation treatments many stroke survivors have persistent physical and mental difficulties such as reduced arm and leg function, difficulty thinking, and depression.
Developing treatments that address these problems is necessary to improve long-term recovery for stroke survivors. Aerobic exercise (AEx) can improve physical and mental function, and reduce depression. Additionally, AEx may enhance physical rehabilitation by making the brain more receptive to, and consequently improving the response to a rehabilitation treatment. Therefore, combining AEx with physical rehabilitation has the potential to improve multiple parts of stroke recovery. This study will examine the effect of combining AEx with physical rehabilitation on physical and mental function in stroke survivors. By gaining a better understanding of the effects of this combined intervention we aim to advance the rehabilitative care of Veteran stroke survivors.
Stroke affects millions of Americans and is a leading cause of disability. In addition to chronic disability, many survivors experience depressive symptoms such as reductions in mood and motivation. Post-stroke depression (PSD) is associated with poorer recovery from stroke, increased health care costs and higher mortality. Additionally, PSD may interfere with the recovery of the nervous system after stroke. Effective treatment options for PSD are limited and often come with side effects, highlighting the need for alternative treatment approaches. Aerobic exercise (AEx) has positive effects on the nervous system, is a powerful anti-depressant, and has limited side effects, yet remains underutilized in stroke survivors with PSD. This study will examine the short-term effects of AEx on the nervous system in stroke survivors with and without PSD. The results will serve as a foundation for the study of AEx as a treatment for PSD.