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Stroke and Physical Activity Q&A

January 28, 2016 by Normand Richard, Certified Exercise Physiologist

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I’ve previously written about the benefits of physical activity on high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis. Today, let’s look at the benefits of physical activity after a stroke.

A stroke happens when blood vessels to the brain are blocked or break. This is a medical emergency so knowing the signs and symptoms and acting quickly are key.

The effects of a stroke can vary from person to person. The information below is general and should NOT replace recommendations from your doctor.


How Soon After a Stroke Can I be Physically Active?

If your stroke affects a physical ability (like walking for example) then you will go through a stroke rehabilitation program. The length of this program and the exercises you’ll do depend on your stroke. If you do not have a physical disability or aren’t part of a rehab program, simply getting up and moving during the first 48 hours can be beneficial. Before you become more physically active, speak to your doctor!

Why Is Physical Activity Beneficial After a Stroke?

Being physically active lowers many risk factors – high blood pressure, obesity, high blood cholesterol to name a few – that can increase your risk for a second stroke or other problems. It’s also very helpful to regain skills needed for day-to-day life (for example: opening a door or reaching for an item on a shelf). Plus, being active helps you regain your confidence, it’s an opportunity to strengthen your social networks, and it benefits mental health.

What Are The Best Activities for Stroke Recovery?

Walking is often the best exercise because it’s a part of everyday life. If your mobility is limited, try chair exercises – watch the Move For Life DVD to learn how (call us at 1-877-725-1149 for a free copy). Doing a little activity each day is the best way to ease back into things. As you get stronger and more confident, you can be active for longer periods.

What Precautions Should I Take?

Getting physically active after a stroke can seem scary. The good news is, if you start slow and at a low-intensity (see table) it’s safe for most people. If your balance has been affected consider using a mobility aid, doing balance exercises, and adjust your daily routines accordingly.

Physical activity should be a part of everyone’s life following a stroke. If you haven’t had a stroke but know someone who has, consider being active with them. You’ll both enjoy the good company and benefits of physical activity.


Related blogs: 

Hypertension and Physical Activity Q&A
Heart Disease and Physical Activity Q&A
Osteoporosis and Physical Activity Q&A
Diabetes and Physical Activity Q&A

Recommended resources:

Heart and Stroke Foundation: The Benefits of Physical Activity
Stroke Recovery Association of BC: Recovering From A Stroke
HealthLinkBC: Stroke

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