Exercise Therapy Following a Stroke

Following a stroke, survivors are often faced with a number of barriers, psychological and physical. These barriers can lead to reduced physical activity levels which can contribute to further health complications such as cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.

Stroke survivors often report to feel weak, lacking confidence, and reduced concentration span, so starting a new exercise regime is the last thing they feel like doing! It is important to know that the benefits of exercise far outweigh the risks! Starting a structured exercise routine following a stroke can improve muscular strength, increase memory and attention span, reduce pain, improve sensation, mobility, and balance. Most importantly, current research suggests that exercise also decreases your chance of suffering a second stroke.

The best type of exercise is very dependent on each person, their symptoms, medical history, preference, and their ability.

Cardiovascular exercise is often a good starting point. These exercises include walking, swimming, cycling, classes, or even seated exercises. They can be performed at home, outside, or within a community setting. These should be performed most days of the week, but should start gentle and gradually increase duration and intensity as tolerated

Strengthening exercises are another important component of any exercise program. These can include bodyweight, resistance bands, hand weight, or gym machines. Once again these can be performed at home, within the community, or a gym/rehab centre. These should be performed 2-3 times per week with higher weights and lower repetitions

Finally, balance exercises are especially crucial for stroke survivors to improve walking ability, getting about home/community, managing uneven surfaces, slopes and stairs. Similar to strength exercises, these should be performed 2-3 times per week with extra consideration to safety and surroundings.

There are a number of special safety considerations for stroke survivors to take into account prior to commencing any new program, so as always, speak to an exercise professional before starting. For more information speak to your GP about seeing an exercise physiologist or physio about commencing an exercise program following a stroke, or for stroke prevention.

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