OBJECTIVE. To understand how two types of aerobic exercise affect upper-extremity motor recovery post-stroke. Our aims were to (1) evaluate the feasibility of having people who had a stroke complete an aerobic exercise intervention and (2) determine whether forced or voluntary exercise differentially facilitates upper-extremity recovery when paired with task practice.
METHOD. Seventeen participants with chronic stroke completed twenty-four 90-min sessions over 8 wk. Aerobic exercise was immediately followed by task practice. Participants were randomized to forced or voluntary aerobic exercise groups or to task practice only.
RESULTS. Improvement on the Fugl-Meyer Assessment exceeded the minimal clinically important difference: 12.3, 4.8, and 4.4 for the forced exercise, voluntary exercise, and repetitive task practice–only groups, respectively. Only the forced exercise group exhibited a statistically significant improvement.
CONCLUSION. People with chronic stroke can safely complete intensive aerobic exercise. Forced aerobic exercise may be optimal in facilitating motor recovery associated with task practice.