Increasing physical activity in stroke rehabilitation units – towards an effective solution

For decades, studies conducted worldwide have found that patient activity levels in stroke rehabilitation units are extremely low, with almost all activity occurring in physiotherapy sessions.

This is a problem because we know that activity and task practice is the key driver of improving motor recovery after stroke, whereas inactivity leads to cardiovascular and muscular deconditioning, increased cardiovascular disease risk, reduction in mood and a host of other negative health consequences. There is increasing national and international momentum to rethink the paradigm in which rehabilitation is provided. We need a thorough understanding of the drivers and barriers to increasing patient activity in order to develop effective strategies to increase activity. This project will employ mixed methods (qualitative and quantitative methods) to comprehensively assess the barriers and enablers of physical activity from multiple stakeholder perspectives (stroke survivors, families, all staff on rehabilitation units). The results of this study are likely to inform future iterations of the Stroke Clinical Guidelines for rehabilitation.

Students will work within the Centre for Research Excellence in Stroke, based at the Florey Institute in Heidelberg.

Key references:

English C, Bernhardt J and Hillier S (2014) Circuit class therapy and 7-day-week therapy increase physiotherapy time, but not patient activity. Early results from the CIRCIT trial. Stroke Published online before print August 14, 2014, doi: 10.1161/STROKEAHA.114.006038

West T, Bernhardt J. Physical activity in hospitalised stroke patients. Stroke Research and Treatment 2012;2012:813765 doi: 10.1155/2012/813765[published Online First: Epub Date]|.

Sjöholm A, Skarin M, Churliov L, Nilsson M, Bernhardt J, Lindén T. Sedentary behaviour and physical activity of people with stroke in rehabilitation hospitals. Stroke Research and Treatment 2014;Article ID 591897, 7 pages doi:[published Online First: Epub Date]|.

Skarin M, Sjoholm A, Nilsson A, Nilsson M, Bernhardt J, Linden T. A mapping study on physical activity in stroke rehabilitation: establishing the baseline. J Rehabil Med 2013;45(10):997-1003 doi: 2340/16501977-1214[published Online First: Epub Date]|.

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