The Canadian Centre for Activity and Aging (CCAA) investigates the interrelationship of physical activity and aging and translates knowledge into leadership courses and model exercise programs. Currently in Ontario, Canada, there are no community-based exercise programs for individuals with stroke once they have received rehabilitation. Further, rehabilitation is rarely offered beyond 1 year when most functional gain is made. However, gains in muscle strength, balance, walking ability, and functional, social, and emotional capacity can be maintained postrehabilitation using a community-based exercise program. The objective of this project was to implement a 12-week community-based exercise program to 12 stroke survivors over the age of 50 to help them reintegrate successfully into the community.
Purpose: To deliver a community-based exercise program for stroke survivors to help them retain physical gains from rehabilitation to achieve successful community reintegration.
Methods: Permission was granted for the Canadian Centre for Activity and Aging to adopt and deliver an evidence-based exercise program for stroke survivors. The CCAA partnered with Parkwood Hospital London and the Southwestern Ontario Stroke Strategy to provide Seniors’ Fitness Instructors with additional training on stroke and exercise. Participants were recruited, screened, and given a fitness appraisal to determine scores of anthropometric measures, and a validated questionnaire was used to assess social and physical functioning.
Preliminary Results: Eleven stroke survivors were recruited to participate in the 12-week pilot exercise program (9 males, 2 females, mean age 65 with a range of 48-86). Prepilot results show that the most common physical deficits resulting from the stroke included unilateral paralysis/weakness (92%), fatigue (83%), balance problems (75%), communication difficulties (67%), and memory/problem solving challenges (67%). Feeling self-conscious about appearance when out in public was the most reported social/emotional challenge among the participants. There was no difference among participants between physical functioning and social/emotional functioning before the pilot exercise program.
Conclusions: Participants benefit physically, socially and emotionally after taking part in a 12-week postrehabilitation community exercise program for stroke survivors. The model program is replicable and the Canadian Centre for Activity and Aging is developing a leadership-training program that can be disseminated nationally and internationally.