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Exercise After Stroke: What the Latest Guidelines Recommend

Why Exercise After Stroke Is Important

The best exercise after a stroke varies from person to person. Every stroke is different and every patient sustains different secondary effects. Therefore, every stroke survivor should talk to their therapist for the best recommendations. Exercise after stroke is critical for two main reasons:

  1. Rehabilitating the physical effects of a stroke; and
  2. Preventing another stroke from happening.

Often, a stroke leads to physical impairments such as hemiplegia or hemiparesis: weakness or paralysis on one side of the body. These impairments increase the risk of falling after stroke and reduce efficacy with the Activities of Daily Living. Therefore, a customized post-stroke exercise regimen should be created to help improve safety and independence. The best exercises after stroke depend upon your unique ability levels and preexisting medical conditions. Many patients receive recommendations that prioritize stroke rehabilitation and stroke prevention.

Here are the current best practices as recommended by the American Heart Association :

  • Gait training exercises should be a top priority to help patients get back to “pre-stroke” levels of activity as soon as possible. Gait training can help improve independence with the Activities of Daily Living and improve tolerance for prolonged physical activity.
  • Aerobic exercise should also be prioritized to help prevent another stroke. Experts recommend aerobic exercise after stroke for 20-60 minutes per day, 3-7 days per week.
  • Strength-training exercise is recommended to reverse muscle atrophy, which typically occurs during the hospital stay and days thereafter. Strength-training programs should include light weights that allow at least one set of 10-15 repetitions. Strength-training should be performed 2-3 days per week with 8-10 exercises involving major muscle groups.
  • Stretching and range-of-motion exercises are recommended to help improve flexibility and prevent contractures (a progressed condition of extremely stiff, tight muscles after stroke).
  • Balance exercises and core exercises are recommended for patients at risk of falling.

It’s important for stroke patients to work with their healthcare providers to develop an exercise plan that accommodates their unique side effects and fitness levels. Doctors and therapists will likely encourage a unique combination of aerobic exercises to help prevent another stroke along with neuromuscular training to help recovery.

To access the full article on exercising after a stroke, click here.

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