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Exercise helps depressed stroke sufferers

21st March 2006

Depressed stroke patients who undertake a programme of exercise were found to experience a reduction in their symptoms, according to new research.

The study, undertaken by the University of Kansas Medical Center and reported in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, found that only 14 per cent of patients suffering from post stroke depression failed to respond positively to an exercise programme after three months, compared to 35 per cent who received traditional help.

After nine months, depressive symptoms in those who exercised were down to 7.5 per cent, compared to 25 per cent for those receiving normal care.

The programme included strength, endurance, arm function and balance exercises, all designed to improve mobility to stroke sufferers.

It is the first time that physical activity studies have been conducted on depressed stroke victims although the therapeutic qualities of exercise for general depression is well documented.

"Optimal recovery after stroke may be best achieved by integrating physical exercise with monitoring for and treatment of depression," said lead author Dr Sue-Min Lai.

The research also found that depression did not affect the progress of those undertaking the exercise programme.