We have been talking around the importance of high intensity exercise for neuroplasticity in the brain for a while. It is widely accepted that it helps improve function in Parkinson's when people regularly (more than 3 days a week) exercise at between 60-80% heart rate max. It is also regularly discussed how cardio exercise is good for overall health including for the heart and lungs.
Research is now showing that it can also improve walking speed and distance in people who have had stroke, traumatic brain injury and spinal cord injury over six months ago. The research has shown that the same effort levels are required so getting heart rate up to 60-80% Maximum is needed to make these changes. With improving locomotion/walking/gait. Functional practice is best, which means training improved walking with walking.
So what does the exercise prescription look like to make these changes, again it is recommended a minimum of 3 x a week, we know the ACSM recommends all adults get a minimum of 150 minutes moderate intensity exercise a week.
If we took 70 year old female client the prescription may look like this for someone who is confidently walking over ground. Four times a week walk outdoors or on a treadmill with 30 seconds walking as hard as they can aiming to get their heart rate over 89 BPM (89-118 BPM = 60-80% HR max), then with slower 1.5 min walks in-between for 30 minutes. Ideally the higher the heart rate the better but we need to start slowly and build up if fitness levels are lower.
To measure heart rate you can count the number of beats by feeling your pulse at your wrist or neck and count the beats for 60 seconds or for 20 seconds and times by three. There are also a number of wearable devices such as watches and heart rate monitors that can give you real time information on your heart rate which maybe a beneficial investment if you want to see how your heart rate more regularly.
This advice is a general guideline and it is always recommended that you seek medical advice before starting a new exercise program.
Owner/operator and Senior Physiotherapist of Hibiscus Neuro Rehab.