The Power of Exercise After a Stroke

April 30, 2023 6 min read

The Power of Exercise After a Stroke

Staying active and fit is essential for reducing stroke risk and the impact of the stroke. This article hopefully helps to inform you of ways to stay active and fit for those who may be at a higher risk for stroke, or have already had a stroke.

The UK's stroke services are providing access to tailored post-rehabilitation exercise programmes. With this system, stroke patients are offered the same quality of care as cardiac disease patients, encouraging the best possible recovery.

Residents in the UK can take advantage of exercise referral schemes to promote physical activity with the help of local health boards and council-run leisure centres. Structured exercise programmes are delivered in small group sessions and may include access to community leisure resources.

The Stroke Association and similar UK Charities offer group exercise classes for users recovering from stroke. These classes generally occur weekly for one hour duration and are either free of cost or low in cost.

 As well as increasing physical and cardio activity, by far the most important part of recovery from many stroke survivors’ points of view is there rehabilitation. This would help to improve mobility and structural alignment with concentrated activities, such as weight-bearing, balance, gait-control, coping strategies, and upper-limb training. Also to focus and improve spasticity, flaccidity, and reduce the required power of the AFO. These activities can help cope with drop-foot and getting up and down from the floor unaided.

This long-term effort will ensure that every action taken produces meaningful improvement over the long haul. With sustained dedication, you can rest assured that each step will bring you closer to your goals.

Exercise and how to View it

Instead of thinking of exercise as a workout, consider it a prescription for your health and well-being. To allow you to achieve maximum performance and increased quality of life. You should consider exercising in some form every day  You should only start exercising once you have recovered enough and only do as much as you can manage. Talk to your doctor or therapist about what is right for you.

Exercise is a physical activity that is planned, structured, repetitive, and purposeful.  Physical activity includes any body movement that contracts your muscles to burn more calories than your body would normally do so just to exist at rest. Although learning to enjoy and plan structured exercise into your routine would definitely improve fitness, it is not the only way to improve fitness. Activities of daily life keep your body moving and still count toward the recommended amount of weekly physical activity. Most importantly, no matter what your current fitness level, you are able to improve your physical fitness and therefore, your heart health, by increasing physical activity and/or exercise as you are able.


 Understanding Cardiovascular Exercise

    Cardiovascular exercise covers everything from walking, jogging or running  on a treadmill (, to cycling, recumbent stepping or swimming. Many people call it ‘cardio’ exercise.


    MET Chart for stroke article


    Sedentary behaviours are basically any waking behaviours characterised by an energy expenditure of ≤1.5 metabolic equivalents (METs), while in a sitting, reclining or lying posture. The chart shows  different levels of physical activity. Many stroke survivors are  generally stuck firmly in sedentary behaviour levels.

    A lot of evidence has emerged that too much sedentary time (e.g. time spent sitting down) is related to a multitude of physiological consequences that result in reduced fitness, increased cardiovascular risk and increased risk of further sickness and even death.

    It is important to note the distinction in definition between sedentary behaviours and physically inactivity (defined as: an insufficient physical activity level to meet present physical activity recommendations – e.g. not achieving 150 minutes/week of moderate intensity activity).

    Note: an individual may be physically inactive but have low levels of sedentary time across their day, or vice versa. So, a person could meet physical activity recommendations but also spend considerable time in sedentary behaviours. 


    Cardiovascular exercise has many health benefits

    When you strengthen your heart, you strengthen your whole system, including the arteries. With every heartbeat it puts pressure on your arteries, which transports a constant flow of blood throughout the body.

    Exercise improves the heart’s efficiency by increasing the number of your smallest blood vessels, called capillaries (this is called an increase in capillary density); which allows greater exchange of those nutrients your body requires. Cardiovascular exercise can also increase the amount of blood that leaves the heart with every beat (stroke volume) the heart consequently doesn’t have to work as hard, increasing its efficiency.

    Regarding your arteries, aerobic exercise decreases what is called arterial stiffness, this allows for the blood to be pushed along the arteries through proper dilation and contractibility, with an adequate amount of pressure.

     In a haemorrhagic stroke, long-term arterial stiffness weakens the arteries. And with a rise in pressure, arteries can burst. Cardiovascular exercise is the first step to keeping or creating a healthy heart and arteries while a second intervention is diet. 

    RPE in stroke article


     The Intensity of exercise is dependent on your heart rate or the amount of effort you feel you are exerting. To workout/ determine how ‘hard’ your heart is working and the intensity during exercise is also depended on your age. The more intense the activity the higher your heart rate will be.

    This is measured by Rate of Perceived Exertion or RPE, This is a scale that generally runs from either 6-20 (6 being resting while 20 is a maximal exertion during exercise) or most commonly on the scale of 0-10 (0 being resting and 10 being maximal exertion during exercise). This scale is used to see how hard you perceive the activity to be.

    It is advised to complete 3-6 days per week for 10-60 minutes per session depending on your status and the intensity of the exercise being completed.

    To get this done most efficiently take guidance from your GP , regarding HIIT Style Training as another useful addition on your recovery journey

    HIIT training is high intensity interval training: a type of cardio workout where you will perform a set of exercises, alternating between high intensity periods and active or full recovery. These are short sessions of of intense work. The intense periods can vary from 10 seconds to 1 minute long and should be performed at 80 to 95% of maximum heart rate.


    Cardio Equipment Considerations

    What to buy will always depend on your budget and space in your house and other personal factors of course, but some general advice below. Stationary exercise machines such as bikes are great, as you can use them without worrying about your balance.

    A Rowing Machine is generally not a good idea – as it could be a problem  with your shoulder if you have subluxation in your more-affected upper limb.

    Treadmills come with a risk dependant on your starting position as you need to  have two hands that work (as potentially you do need to be able to hold on) but are an excelelnt addition when appropriate.

    Ellipticals/Cross Trainers  are often hopeless for those with upper-limb weakness (the more-affected hand cannot hold onto the handle), but again can be useful dependant on your starting position,  some survivors make them work,

    However by the far the best option is a Recumbent Bike, 

    Recumbent bikes allow for a good cardio workout but also comfortable and relaxing.  We have recommended as shown below is the Sole R92 Recumbent Bike , to achieve the most comfort in a workout, low impact is extremely important when considering exercise equipment.  Users with foot or joint issues will love the R92.  Sole's patented 2 degree inward design on the foot pedals puts your body in its correct posture, minimizing the aches and pains associated with other models.


     Another reason users love the Sole R92 is the padded, adjustable seat with its supportive back.  Lower back pain is one of the proponents of why people don't workout.  But with a comfortable supportive seat that adjusts to users needs, you can focus less on being uncomfortable and more on getting in shape. More details on the Sole R92 Recumbent Bike
    Sole R92 for stroke cardio exercise

    We have an extensive range of  recumbent bikes from home to full commercial versions, so please have a look at our recumbent bikes for stroke survivors


    Concluding Thoughts

    It’s also  a good idea to monitor yourself  and your progress while exercising. Heart rate monitors are a great way to keep track of the intensity you are working at. 

    Stay on track of your physical fitness goals with an activity watch. Accurately track your activity, sleep, and heart rate with a FitBit or a brand that catches your eye to measure your progress over time. Monitor your improvements and reach your goals with ease.

    We recommend you speak with your GP to find out what heart rate you should be working at for your age and regarding any aspect we mention in this article before you start your recovery.

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