Exercise after stroke is important for improving mobility and reducing the risk of recurrent stroke.
But how much exercise is too much? And what happens if you don’t exercise at all?
This article will help you find the sweet spot for a healthy recovery from stroke.
How Much Exercise After Stroke Is Enough?
Every stroke patient will benefit from a different amount/level of exercise because every stroke is different. However, for the sake of this article, here’s a quick rule of thumb:
Move a little every day, and you’ll be better off than not exercising. If you struggle with post-stroke paralysis, even passive exercise or stretching counts.
But beyond a little daily movement, you’ll be in the best shape if you move strategically every day.
Here’s what we mean by strategic:
What’s the Best Strategy for Stroke Exercise?
The purpose of exercise after stroke is to rewire the brain through neuroplasticity.
Since neuroplasticity is activated by repetition, your strategy should involve emphasizing repetition during your physical therapy stroke rehab exercises.
The more you repeat each exercise, the better you will get at making that movement. But how much repetition is enough?
Generally, most stroke patients can benefit from daily exercise. However, if your impairments are severe, you may want to scale it back to 3-6 days per week.
A good rule of thumb is that if exercise leaves you exhausted, then scale it back. Always listen to your body!
But if exercise doesn’t leave you fatigued, how do you know when to stop?
How Much Exercise After Stroke Is Too Much?
As you start to see improvement from your daily exercise, you may get carried away by excitement and push yourself aggressively.
Perhaps you go from exercising 15 minutes every day to exercising for 2 hours a day.
Is that too much?
Here’s how you can determine the correct answer:
- YES, it’s too much if you feel exhausted after, and you feel fatigued the next day. If your rigor actually sabotages your results, then you’re exercising too much.
- NO, it’s not too much if you only feel a productive sense of tiredness after and it does not result in fatigue the next day.
As you can see, stroke recovery requires listening to your body.
Listen to Your Body to Develop a Home Exercise Program
Everyone is an expert on their own body (because you lived in it your entire life, after all). When you listen to your body, you will know when you’re exercising too much.
Symptoms like fatigue, spasms, and irritability are typical signs that you’re simply exercising too much.
If you feel any of those symptoms, just back off your regimen and scale things back down for a while. Remind yourself to be patient, and take a nice long nap.
What If You Stop Exercising Altogether?
Please don’t let this deter you from exercising. If you don’t exercise after stroke, here’s what could happen:
- Your muscles will slowly waste away. This is called atrophy, and many stroke survivors lose muscle due to atrophy after stroke. To prevent atrophy, you just need to use your muscles.
- You could actually get worse. Some small regressions after stroke are a normal part of the recovery process. But if you continue to neglect your affected muscles, you could suffer from learned non-use, a condition where your brain completely forgets how to use your muscles.
- Your risk of recurrent stroke goes up. With atherosclerosis, high blood cholesterol, and obesity as major stroke risk factors, exercise after stroke is important for reducing these risks.
As you can see, it’s important to keep your muscles moving after stroke!
The trick is to find your sweet spot where you’re not making yourself worse from overwork or underwork. Work with a trusted therapist and listen to your body.
We hope this guide has helped you understand the importance of exercise after stroke!