People who walk on a treadmill even years after stroke damage can significantly improve their health and mobility, changes that reflect actual “rewiring” of their brains, according to research spearheaded at Johns Hopkins.
“This is great news for stroke survivors because results clearly demonstrate that long-term stroke damage is not immutable and that with exercise it’s never too late for the brain and body to recover,” says Daniel Hanley, M.D., professor of neurology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
The study’s results suggest that patients’ brains may retain the capacity to rewire through a treadmill exercise program months or years after conventional physical therapy has ended.
Researchers at the GRECC, led by Richard F. Macko, M.D., and Andrew P. Goldberg, M.D., have developed treadmill therapy for stroke patients over the past decade.
Investigators at all three institutions combined efforts to recruit 71 patients who had a stroke at least six months earlier, with an average time lapse of nearly four years.
At the study’s onset, half of the subjects could walk without assistance, while the rest used a cane, a walker or a wheelchair.
All of the subjects, separated into two random groups regardless of disability, were tested for mobility and aerobic capacity (also known as VO2 peak), a measure of cardiac fitness.
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