Stroke survivors in gym-rich neighborhoods more likely to stay physically active

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Stroke survivors were more likely to be physically active or even exercise more after their stroke if they lived in neighborhoods with easy access to recreation centers and gyms, according to a preliminary study presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference 2024. To be held in Phoenix, February. 7-9, and is a world premier meeting for researchers and clinicians dedicated to the science of stroke and brain health.

We know that stroke survivors need to be physically active as part of their recovery. Our findings suggest that it is important to have a conversation with stroke patients about the physical activity resources available in their area to enable them to continue their recovery after hospital discharge. If their neighborhood does not offer fitness resources, neurologists should consider discharging the patient to a rehabilitation facility where they can participate in physical activity.”

Jeffrey Wing, PhD, MPH, Lead study author, is an assistant professor of epidemiology at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio

In this study, researchers examined possible links between access to fitness/exercise centers, pools, and gyms and physical activity among 333 people living in New York City who had a mild stroke. Data were geocoded, assigned to US Census tracts, and aggregated. Including data from the National Neighborhood Data Archive (collecting information on the number of physical activity resources at the census tract level). Geocoding is the process of transforming the description of a location into -; such as an address or the name of a place -; at a location on the Earth’s surface. The researchers then examined the relationship between the number of fitness and recreation centers, such as pools, gyms and skating rinks per square mile, and self-reported changes in physical activity levels -; more active, about the same or less active -; One year after the stroke.

The analysis found:

  • About 17% of participants reported being more physically active one year after the stroke, and 48% reported the same level of physical activity as before the stroke.
  • Participants living in neighborhoods with more recreational and fitness resources (about 58 fitness resources) were 57% more likely to be more active than those in neighborhoods with few or no fitness resources after controlling for age, sex, race, and gender. Ethnicity, education, health insurance and body mass index.
  • Similarly, participants who lived in areas with more recreation centers and fitness resources were 47% more likely to report the same level of physical activity one year after stroke than those who lived in areas with few or no resources available.

Previous studies have shown that even moderate physical activity is beneficial for stroke recovery and can include walking, Wing said. “However, it is important to identify the availability or limited availability of exercise resources in a person’s immediate area and to be able to feel safe while participating in exercise activities.”

Previous studies have found that features of a neighborhood’s built environment, such as access to healthy foods or recreational spaces that promote physical activity, were also associated with a lower incidence of stroke, Wing noted.

“The take-away from this analysis is that people should move to places where there are more resources to engage in physical activity, but urge people to find ways to be active in their own neighborhoods,” said Julie Strominger, co-author of the study. PhD student in epidemiology at The Ohio State University. “It’s the action that will lead to better outcomes, so just the act of being physically active is important.”

“This research is consistent with previous research on the importance of physical activity for optimal health. The new focus is on stroke survivors,” said Daniel T., volunteer expert at the American Stroke Association and member of the EPI and Stroke Council. Lackland, Ph.D., FAHA, is professor of epidemiology and director of the Division of Translational Neurosciences and Population Studies in the Department of Neurology at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston. “It’s important for health care professionals to discuss maintaining physical activity with stroke survivors: find out if they know a safe place to exercise, and if they don’t, that information is readily available.” Lackland was not involved in the research.

Study Details and Background:

  • The analysis included 333 adults hospitalized for mild stroke and enrolled in the Discharge Educational Strategies for Reduction of Vascular Events (DESERVE) study.
  • The DESERVE study was a randomized clinical trial of 546 stroke survivors and was conducted from 2012-2016 in New York City.
  • Participants were 52% female, with a mean age of 65 years; They make up 35% of Hispanic adults, 31% of black adults, 28% of white adults, and 6% self-identified as “other” race.

The main limitation of the study, according to the authors, is that these findings may not be generalizable to non-urban neighborhoods in the United States. In addition, data were extracted from a clinical trial that included only stroke survivors who had a mild stroke. Therefore, this association may not hold true for survivors of severe stroke. Also, when people in certain neighborhoods reported more physical activity, that didn’t necessarily mean they used their neighborhood’s fitness and recreational resources.

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