A Community-Based Upper-Extremity Group Exercise Program Improves Motor Function and Performance of Functional Activities in Chronic Stroke: A Randomized Controlled Trial
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OBJECTIVE: To assess the effects of a community-based exercise program on motor recovery and functional abilities of the paretic upper extremity in persons with chronic stroke. DESIGN: Randomized controlled trial. SETTING: Rehabilitation research laboratory and a community hall. PARTICIPANTS: A sample of 63 people (> or =50y) with chronic deficits resulting from stroke (onset > or =1y). INTERVENTIONS: The arm group underwent an exercise program designed to improve upper-extremity function (1h/session, 3 sessions/wk for 19wk). The leg group underwent a lower-extremity exercise program. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: The Wolf Motor Function Test (WMFT), Fugl-Meyer Assessment (FMA), hand-held dynamometry (grip strength), and the Motor Activity Log. RESULTS: Multivariate analysis showed a significant group by time interaction (Wilks lambda=.726, P=.017), indicating that overall, the arm group had significantly more improvement than the leg group. Post hoc analysis demonstrated that gains in WMFT (functional ability) (P=.001) and FMA (P=.001) scores were significantly higher in the arm group. The amount of improvement was comparable to other novel treatment approaches such as constraint-induced movement therapy or robot-aided exercise training previously reported in chronic stroke. Participants with moderate arm impairment benefited more from the program. CONCLUSIONS: The pilot study showed that a community-based exercise program can improve upper-extremity function in persons with chronic stroke. This outcome justifies a larger clinical trial to further assess efficacy and cost effectiveness.
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