Inactive and Alone: Physical Activity within the First 14 Days of Acute Stroke Unit Care

Julie Bernhardt, Helen Dewey, Amanda Thrift, Geoffrey Donnan

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449 Citations (Scopus)


Background and Purpose-One way that stroke units may improve outcome is by reducing complications of immobility through early mobilization; however, this intervention needs testing. The purpose of this study was to determine the physical activity patterns of stroke patients managed within acute stroke units as a first step in developing an early mobilization protocol. Methods-We recruited 64 patients within 14 days after stroke from 5 metropolitan stroke units and observed them for 2 consecutive days at 10-minute intervals between the hours of 8 AM and 5 PM. At each observation, we ascertained physical activity, location, and other person(s) present. Therapists recorded therapy details. Results-The 58 patients who completed the study had a mean age of 71.3 years. Stroke severity ranged from mild (National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale score, 1) to severe (score, 27), and mean time after stroke at observation was 5.6 days (range, 0 to 13 days). Only 9 patients were restricted to bed. During the therapeutic day, patients spent >50% resting in bed, 28% sitting out of bed, and only 13% engaged in activities with the potential to prevent complications and improve recovery of mobility. Patients were alone >60% of the time. Conclusions-This is the first multicenter study of physical activity early after stroke. We believe the next step is to conduct a randomized controlled trial to evaluate the effect of increased levels of physical activity early after stroke compared with current standards of care.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1005-1009
Number of pages5
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Early ambulation
  • Rehabilitation
  • Stroke
  • Stroke units

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