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Exercise May Decrease Stroke Severity


A study recently published in the journal Neurology showed that people who exercise have lower stroke severity scores than the people who were physically inactive.

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The study consisted of 925 individuals admitted with a stroke. The severity of the stroke is measured by the National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale (NIHSS). The NIHSS ranges from 0-42, in which the higher number, the greater severity of the stroke. For the purpose of this study, a mild stroke defined as between 0-5 on the NIHSS. The physical activity level prior to admission was self-reported.   The participants of the study were divided into three groups based on their activity levels prior to the stroke: 1. physically inactive, 2. mild activity or 3. moderate activity levels. The definition of mild active consisted of having 4 hours a week of mild exercise such as light walking. The moderate activity group consisted of at least 2 hours per weeks of moderate to vigorous exercise such as swimming, brisk walking or running.

The results of the study showed that patients who reported that they participated in light or moderate physical activity before their stroke were twice as likely to have a mild stroke compared to those who were physically inactive. There was no significant difference between the light or moderate physically active groups on stroke severity. Stroke severity also was not influenced by other potential risk factors such as smoking, diabetes, hypertension or the use of cholesterol medications.

It is well known that regular exercise or being physically active has many health benefits including improving high blood pressure, diabetes and weight loss. Exercise also is believed to have beneficial effects on the brain beyond those health benefits. Research indicates that being physically active may actually prevent strokes. Now this study indicates that being physically active may also reduce the severity of the stroke.

Now step away from the computer and get moving, your brain will thank you!



Reinholdsson, Malin, PT, MS. (2018). Prestroke physical activity could influence acute stroke severity (part of PAPSIGOT). Neurology, 91, e1461-1467.

Spartano, Nicole, PhD. (2018). Prestroke physical activity to reduce stroke severity. Moving to lower risk with light activity. Neurology, 91, 727-728.