Stroke study to reduce ‘sitting time’

Feb 17 2016

Associate Professor Coralie English

Stroke survivors who sit for long periods throughout the day could improve their health simply by performing short but frequent bouts of light physical activity.

This is the hope of a recovery and rehabilitation trial currently being undertaken at the Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI) in Newcastle, funded by the National Stroke Foundation with additional support from the John Hunter Hospital Charitable Trust.

Entitled ‘BUST-Stroke: Breaking Up Sitting Time After Stroke,” the initiative is led by Newcastle researchers Associate Professor Coralie English, Dr Heidi Janssen, Dr Amanda Patterson and Associate Professor Rohan Walker, as well as Professor Julie Bernhardt from the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health and Professor David Dunstan from the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute – both in Melbourne.

The pilot study is thought to be the first to focus on ameliorating the acute effects of sedentary behaviour, a primary contributor to the onset of a number of chronic diseases and secondary strokes.

“Baker IDI researchers have already shown that regularly getting up and walking for short periods significantly reduces what we call postprandial glucose response, which are the big peaks in blood glucose and insulin levels after you eat,” Associate Professor English explained. “These put shear force on your blood vessels and increase the risk of stroke.”

“Importantly, they also found that the benefit of walking at a slower, less intense pace was almost identical to walking briskly, suggesting that the amount of effort put into an activity break is not as critical as once thought.”

“Basically, it doesn’t matter if you do something light or strenuous – as long as you do something!”

Dubbed “doable and achievable,” the trial requires participants to come into HMRI once a week for a full day over four consecutive weeks. Meals and entertainment are provided.

“We have one session of baseline assessments and instruction, followed by three randomised sessions of mixed sitting and physical activity time,” says Associate Professor English.

“The first involves sitting for eight hours and only getting up to use the toilet, the second involves gentle, on-the-spot exercises every half and hour, and the third and final condition involves a slow walk for three minutes every half an hour.”

“Researchers will be comparing the three sessions and measuring health outcomes, such as blood pressure and blood glucose.”

To learn more about the study or volunteer, contact Associate Professor Coralie English on (02) 4913 8102 or HMRI directly on (02) 4042 0010.