Wed. Jul 17th, 2019

Simple exercise program developed to help stroke survivors

stroke survivor benefitA doctor from the University of Stellenbosch has created a new exercise program to help stroke survivors.

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A doctor from the University of Stellenbosch has recently created a simple, affordable exercise program to help stroke survivors. The exercise program was created to improve their quality of life.

According to the Heart & Stroke Foundation of South Africa almost every hour ten people suffer from a stroke. Stroke survivors are often left with poor mobility. For them completing simple daily tasks can be almost impossible.

After a stroke, survivors may need daily, round the clock care. This could cost thousands of Rands which many survivors might not be able to afford. Doctor Tania Zastron, explained that it is important for stroke survivors to perform physical activities to improve their quality of life.

“One of the ways to achieve this is through sensory-motor exercises that can induce the functional recovery in chronic stroke survivors. It can improve their brain’s ability to reorganise itself in response to sensory input, experience and learning.”

During her study at the university, Zastron developed an eight-week exercise program that included the following exercises:

  • Head nods
  • Trunk leans
  • Reaching
  • Sitting on an exercise ball and reaching
  • Catching and throwing
  • Single leg stance and shifting weight
  • Various walking exercises
  • Walking with direction and obstacles, reaching and walking
  • Sit to stand exercises
  • Doing 360° turns

Zastron stressed that it was important for stroke survivors to perform these exercises. This is because a stroke disturbs the balance with different structures in the brain.

“After the central nervous system has been injured, brain reorganisation lays the foundation for motor learning, acquiring new skills as well as functional recovery.”

Years of University research

Zastron’s study consisted of more than 20 stroke survivors who had a stroke six or more months before the study. They were on average were 70 years of age. The subjects chosen had to be able to stand for 30 seconds and walk seven meters without help.

The individuals had to complete three, one hour long sessions per week for eight weeks.

Signs of improvement for stroke survivors

Zastron said that at the end of her study she found that her subjects showed an improvement in balance when they stood on a foam pad. The subjects had also shown improvement in physical and social functions.

“Overall, the SMT programme led to a higher perceived level of physical functioning, which in turn increased the participants’ self-efficacy and created a state of improved functioning in daily living and overall well-being.”

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