Pilates training may help sub-acute-stroke survivors to improve functional balance and quality
of life, concluded authors of a small study published in the International Journal of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences (2013; 2 [4], 204-11). Subacute-stroke survivors have had a stroke within the preceding 3-6 months.

Researchers from C.U.
Shah Physiotherapy College in Surendranagar, Gujarat, India, conducted the study to determine whether a Pilates practice could help stroke survivors, since other studies had found Pilates valuable for improving postural stability and balance in older adults.

The study had an assessor-blinded, randomized controlled design. Investigators divided 23 subjects between two groups: Pilates or a control group. Pilates subjects took 8 weeks of 45-minute Pilates classes three times per week in addition to receiving conventional poststroke therapy. Control participants only
attended conventional therapy. Assessors, who did not know which group participants were in, collected data on functional balance and quality of life at baseline and after the 8-week intervention.

Data analysis revealed significant improvement in Pilates group members compared with control subjects in both functional balance and quality of life. While control group participants also showed some balance improvement, they did not experience quality-of-life enhancement. Limitations of the study included its small sample size and short duration. More research was recommended.

Pilates exercises used in
the study included the following traditional mat exercises and three standing exercises:

  • hundred
  • bridge
  • alternate toe taps
  • side to side
  • side kick
  • quadruped
  • spine twist
  • side leg lift (standing)
  • tandem stance (standing)
  • ball wall-squat (standing)

Conventional physical therapy for stroke survivors consisted of basic stretching, strengthening, training in the activities of daily living, and gait training.