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UC students focus on stroke and Parkinson’s research

Antony Perry

9 October 2017: Running on a treadmill and exercising in a group are among the most effective ways to get back on your feet if you’ve suffered a stroke, according to new research from the University of Canberra.

A study conducted by Rebecca Temby, a Bachelor of Physiotherapy (Honours) student, has found machine-based exercise and circuit group therapy are the most popular activity options among stroke survivors.

And to a lesser extent, playing video games which require players to be physically active – such as those available on the Wii console – can reignite a person’s desire to be active again.

Ms Temby’s research focused on determining what therapeutic interventions led to increased physical activity in people who have suffered a stroke.

Running or walking on a treadmill and being active in a group elicited the desired response from most of the 965 participants, but Ms Temby also found virtual reality training was quite popular.

Previous studies have found that stroke survivors do little or no physical activity and spend most of their time sitting or lying down, but Ms Temby’s research could force people into action.

“We know stroke survivors do less physical activity than even the most sedentary adults,” she said

“It’s important to change this because there is a link between increased physical activity and quality of life. Higher levels of physical activity can also lead to a reduction in the risk of chronic disease.

“Through the research, we found that therapeutic interventions, like treadmill activity and circuit training, had a significant effect on increasing physical activity. It’s an important area to focus on.”

Ms Temby’s research is one of the first systematic reviews into how therapeutic interventions can increase physical activity in stroke survivors.

She will present her findings at the Australian Physiotherapy Association’s national conference in Sydney later this month, where she will be joined by fellow Bachelor of Physiotherapy (Honours) student Renee Salmon.

Ms Salmon’s research this year has focused on strength loss in people living with Parkinson’s disease.

Ms Salmon analysed data from studies that included 443 participants in her systematic review and found that people living with Parkinson’s were significantly more susceptible to strength loss compared to healthy individuals.

At present, physiotherapists do not routinely assess the strength of people living with Parkinson’s disease. However, Ms Salmon’s findings suggest that physiotherapy practice needs to change.

“Not routinely assessing the strength of people with Parkinson’s leads to a lack of intervention,” Ms Salmon said.

“If clinicians aren’t checking, they aren’t stepping in to provide activities and interventions to improve the situation.

“Strength training has been shown to be effective in people with the disease, but if programs aren’t implemented it can have significant flow-on effects.

“A loss of strength will lead to increased limitations on the person, such as reduced mobility, which results in reduced independence and a more severe progression of the disease.”

More than 80 abstracts were submitted for consideration, with Ms Temby and Ms Salmon among the 22 applicants chosen to present their work at the Australian Physiotherapy Association’s national conference in Sydney from 19-21 October.