Effects of augmented exercise therapy time after stroke: a meta-analysis

Gert Kwakkel, Roland van Peppen, Robert C Wagenaar, Sharon Wood Dauphinee, Carol Richards, Ann Ashburn, Kimberly Miller, Nadina Lincoln, Cecily Partridge, Ian Wellwood, Peter Langhorne

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review


BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: To present a systematic review of studies that addresses the effects of intensity of augmented exercise therapy time (AETT) on activities of daily living (ADL), walking, and dexterity in patients with stroke.

SUMMARY OF REVIEW: A database of articles published from 1966 to November 2003 was compiled from MEDLINE, CINAHL, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, PEDro, DARE, and PiCarta using combinations of the following key words: stroke, cerebrovascular disorders, physical therapy, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, exercise therapy, rehabilitation, intensity, dose-response relationship, effectiveness, and randomized controlled trial. References presented in relevant publications were examined as well as abstracts in proceedings. Studies that satisfied the following selection criteria were included: (1) patients had a diagnosis of stroke; (2) effects of intensity of exercise training were investigated; and (3) design of the study was a randomized controlled trial (RCT). For each outcome measure, the estimated effect size (ES) and the summary effect size (SES) expressed in standard deviation units (SDU) were calculated for ADL, walking speed, and dexterity using fixed and random effect models. Correlation coefficients were calculated between observed individual effect sizes on ADL of each study, additional time spent on exercise training, and methodological quality. Cumulative meta-analyses (random effects model) adjusted for the difference in treatment intensity in each study was used for the trials evaluating the effects of AETT provided. Twenty of the 31 candidate studies, involving 2686 stroke patients, were included in the synthesis. The methodological quality ranged from 2 to 10 out of the maximum score of 14 points. The meta-analysis resulted in a small but statistically significant SES with regard to ADL measured at the end of the intervention phase. Further analysis showed a significant homogeneous SES for 17 studies that investigated effects of increased exercise intensity within the first 6 months after stroke. No significant SES was observed for the 3 studies conducted in the chronic phase. Cumulative meta-analysis strongly suggests that at least a 16-hour difference in treatment time between experimental and control groups provided in the first 6 months after stroke is needed to obtain significant differences in ADL. A significant SES supporting a higher intensity was also observed for instrumental ADL and walking speed, whereas no significant SES was found for dexterity.

CONCLUSIONS: The results of the present research synthesis support the hypothesis that augmented exercise therapy has a small but favorable effect on ADL, particularly if therapy input is augmented at least 16 hours within the first 6 months after stroke. This meta-analysis also suggests that clinically relevant treatment effects may be achieved on instrumental ADL and gait speed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2529-39
Number of pages11
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2004

Cite this