Exercise and Stroke Can Exercise Help?

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This article was edited and updated on February 15, 2017.

What is a stroke?

A stroke occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is interrupted or severely reduced, which in turn deprives brain tissue of oxygen and food. Brain cells begin to die very quickly; prompt action is crucial.

There are three common types of stroke:

A stroke can develop over hours or even days. The symptoms depend on the type of stroke and the area of the brain that’s affected; the length and severity of the symptoms vary from individual to individual.

Signs of a stroke may include:

Strokes can be treated and prevented, but it requires paying attention to symptoms and knowing the risk factors.

What are the risk factors for stroke?

As there are with many other health conditions, there are controllable and uncontrollable risk factors for stroke.

Controllable risk factors include lifestyle factors that can be changed, and medical risk factors which can usually be treated. Working with a doctor on these risk factors will be beneficial.

Controllable risk factors for stroke are:

Uncontrollable risk factors include:

Can exercise prevent stroke?

If you are at high risk of a stroke, then adopting a healthy lifestyle and exercising are the best steps you can take to prevent a stroke.

Healthy lifestyle recommendations include 2:

What about after a stroke? Will exercise help?

The National Stroke Association recommends these daily activities:

The American Heart Association has written a detailed and highly annotated article about post-stroke exercise. One paragraph says:

"Several important factors underscore the potential value of exercise training and physical activity in stroke survivors. Previous studies have demonstrated the trainability of stroke survivors and documented beneficial physiological, psychological, sensorimotor, strength, endurance, and functional effects of various types of exercise. Moreover, data from studies involving stroke and able-bodied subjects have documented the beneficial impact of regular physical activity on multiple cardiovascular disease risk factors and provided evidence that such benefits are likely to translate into a reduced risk for mortality from stroke and cardiac events. Although they require additional validation by randomized clinical trials and other appropriately designed studies, these observations make recommendations for stroke survivors to participate in regular physical activity highly compelling at the present time." 3 (My italics.)

On almost any website about stroke rehabilitation, these general exercises will be suggested:

Since the nature of the disability following a stroke varies with each individual, it is important for someone who has suffered a stroke to follow the advice of their doctor and/or physiotherapist.

This article is part of a series about various health conditions and the benefits of exercise. The other articles are:

I am a BCRPA-certified fitness instructor in Vancouver, BC. I teach four classes at the West End Community Centre in Vancouver, BC, mostly designed for the older adult. The Inevitable Disclaimer: Everything published here expresses only my opinion, based on my training and research. What you do with the information is entirely your own responsibility. I am not liable for any injury you suffer that seems to be related to anything you read here. Always consult your doctor before beginning an exercise program. For other articles, return to the table of contents.

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  1. These three dots behave exactly like a footnote. Click on them and you will get more information about the topic. 

  2. These suggestions come from the Mayo Clinic guide online at http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/stroke/basics/prevention/con-20042884. 

  3. The entire article can be found here. The summary makes it clear that post-stroke exercising has extended and enhanced the lives of those who have suffered from a stroke.