After stroke, patients typically spend at least half of the day resting in bed.
Because immobility is known to be linked to low mood, researchers from the National Stroke Institute in Melbourne decided to randomly assign 71 patients to a very early mobility programme or standard care within 24 hours of the event.
Seven days and 12 months after the stroke, researchers assessed patients using the Irritability, Depression and Anxiety (IDA) scale.
Focusing on the depression outcomes, which included questions about the urge to self-harm or harm others, the researchers found a significant difference between the two patient groups as early as seven days after stroke.
Those encouraged to get up and move around after experiencing a stroke showed fewer signs of depression (86 per cent) and marginally fewer signs of anxiety than the standard care group.
However, at 12 months there was little difference between the two groups.
Lead researcher Dr Janice Collier said the effect seen at seven days could be because of the mood-boosting effect of physical activity or due to the higher level of attention and companionship shown to those in the very early mobilisation group.
'We would think that planning to go home or to rehab or a nursing home would affect their mood,' she added.
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