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Evidence of High-Intensity Exercise on Lower Limb Functional Outcomes and Safety in Acute and Subacute Stroke Population: A Systematic Review

journal contribution
posted on 2023-02-15, 04:32 authored by SM Mah, AM Goodwill, HC Seow, Wei-Peng TeoWei-Peng Teo
This systematic review investigated the effects of high-intensity exercise (HIE) on lower limb (LL) function in acute and subacute stroke patients. A systematic electronic search was performed in PubMed, CINAHL and the Web of Science from inception to 30 June 2022. Outcomes examined included LL function and measures of activities of daily living such as the Barthel index, 6 min walk test (6MWT), gait speed and Berg balance scale (BBS), adverse events and safety outcomes. The methodological quality and the quality of evidence for each study was assessed using the PEDro scale and the Risk of Bias 2 tool (RoB 2). HIE was defined as achieving at least 60% of the heart rate reserve (HRR) or VO2 peak, 70% of maximal heart rate (HRmax), or attaining a score of 14 or more on the rate of perceived exertion Borg scale (6–20 rating scale). This study included randomized controlled trials (RCTs) which compared an intervention group of HIE to a control group of lower intensity exercise, or no intervention. All participants were in the acute (0–3 months) and subacute (3–6 months) stages of stroke recovery. Studies were excluded if they were not RCTs, included participants from a different stage of stroke recovery, or if the intervention did not meet the pre-defined HIE criteria. Overall, seven studies were included that used either high-intensity treadmill walking, stepping, cycling or overground walking exercises compared to either a low-intensity exercise (n = 4) or passive control condition (n = 3). Three studies reported significant improvements in 6MWT and gait speed performance, while only one showed improved BBS scores. No major adverse events were reported, although minor incidents were reported in only one study. This systematic review showed that HIE improved LL functional task performance, namely the 6MWT and gait speed. Previously, there was limited research demonstrating the efficacy of HIE early after stroke. This systematic review provides evidence that HIE may improve LL function with no significant adverse events report for stroke patients in their acute and subacute rehabilitation stages. Hence, HIE should be considered for implementation in this population, taking into account the possible benefits in terms of functional outcomes, as compared to lower intensity interventions.



International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health



Article number

ARTN 153









Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal