Exercise has positive affects for everyone, and stroke survivors are no exception. As a stroke survivor you may be faced with many barriers as a consequence of functional and cognitive deficits.
Barriers can lead to reduced physical activity, which in turn can result in additional health complications associated with cardiovascular and metabolic disease.
While adopting an exercise regime may seem daunting, the benefits will far out way the risks. For example, did you know post stroke many survivors are also faced with secondary health related problems, such as muscle weakness, reduced strength, memory deficits, reduced attention span, pain, sensation loss, problems with mobility and balance, depression, and anxiety. All of which severely impact your ability to function independently and perform activities of daily living.
Evidence shows us that regular exercise and physical activity not only counteracts or assists with the management of barriers and health concerns mentioned, but it is also important for post-stroke recovery and more importantly preventing a second stroke.
There are many avenues to source information on exercise, firstly you could consult your GP, they may refer you to exercise is medicine website where you can access a fact sheet on stroke and exercise. Another good source of information is the national stroke foundation of Australia, on this website you can find information about stroke, associated symptoms, risk factors, support, and resources. Exercise right is also another great website, here you will find home workouts, resources on chronic diseases and physical activity guidelines. You may also seek the support and guidance of an accredited exercise physiologist (AEP) who will be able to prescribe exercise for you based on your needs and goals of rehabilitation. The AEP has extensive knowledge, training, and experience in neurological and musculoskeletal rehabilitation and can deliver evidence-based exercise programs.
Overall an exercise program can:
- Improve muscle strength and endurance along with walking ability allowing you to complete your daily activities.
- Improve balance and coordination which helps to reduce falls risk.
- Improve overall mood, alertness and thinking ability.
In general, evidence suggests aerobic exercise be performed 3-5 days per week or every day if possible, for at least 20-30 minutes each time. Resistance exercises should be progressive in nature and performed at least 2-3 times per week focusing on the larger muscle groups (back, legs, chest) and both resistance or aerobic exercise is safe to be performed as HIIT (high intensity interval training) Additionally, stretching and balance exercises should be performed daily.