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Exercise can help reduce depression after stroke

Written by: Staff

NEW YORK, Mar 21 (Reuters) - Stroke patients who partake in a therapeutic exercise program may experience a reduction in depressive symptoms, according to the results of a study published the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Along with physical disability, depression is common in stroke patients, Dr. Sue-Min Lai, of the University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City, and colleagues point out. Previous studies have found that physical exercise can reduce symptoms in depressed patients, but the effect of exercise on stroke patients is unknown.

To further investigate, Lai and her associates assessed the effect of physical exercise on depressive symptoms in 100 stroke survivors who had completed rehabilitation. The patients were randomly assigned to participate in an exercise program or to receive the usual care.

The exercise program consisted of a progressive, structured, three-month regimen that targeted strength, balance, endurance and arm function. The researchers conducted tests for depression and physical function before the study began and again after three months and nine months.

The average patient age was 69.8 years old. There were no significant differences between the two groups in the rates of depressive symptoms and other effects of the stroke before the study began.

After three months, depressive symptoms persisted in 14 per cent of patients in the exercise group and 35.6 per cent in the usual care group. After nine months, the rates of significant depressive symptoms were 7.5 percent in the exercise group and 25 percent in the usual care group.

The team found that the presence of depression did not affect the physical gains achieved with exercise.

Lai and colleagues conclude that the effects of stroke on physical function and mood are interrelated and should be considered together. ''Optimal recovery after stroke may be best achieved by integrating physical exercise with monitoring for and treatment of depression.'' REUTERS PR VC0845

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