Background: Despite the cardiovascular etiology of stroke, exercise and risk factor modification programs akin to cardiac rehabilitation (CR) are not available. This study aimed to establish the feasibility of adapting a CR model for individuals with mild to moderate stroke disability. A secondary objective was to determine the program's effects on aerobic and walking capacity, and stroke risk factors.Methods: A repeated measures design was used with a 3-month baseline period and 6-month adapted CR intervention (n = 43, mean ± SD age 65 ± 12 years, 30 ± 28 months post stroke). Feasibility was determined by the number of participants who completed the study, occurrence of adverse events and frequency, duration and intensity of exercise performed. To determine effectiveness of the program, outcomes measured included aerobic capacity (VO2peak, ventilatory threshold), 6-Minute Walk Test (6MWT) distance, and risk factors. Descriptive statistics characterized the classes attended and number and intensity of exercise sessions. Paired t-tests, one-factor repeated measures analyses of variance contrasts and chi-square analyses were used to compare changes over time.Results: Two participants withdrew during the baseline period. Of the remaining 41 participants who commenced the program, 38 (93%) completed all aspects. No serious adverse effects occurred. Post-intervention, VO2peak improved relative to the stable baseline period (P = 0.046) and the increase in ventilatory threshold approached significance (P = 0.062).Conclusions: CR is feasible after stroke and may be adapted to accommodate for those with a range of post-stroke disability. It is effective in increasing aerobic capacity. CR may be an untapped opportunity for stroke survivors to access programs of exercise and risk factor modification to lower future event risk. © 2010 Tang et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.
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