Stroke recovery needs aerobic exercises such as walking for better recovery. It is because heart muscles should be strong enough to walk. However, before engaging in those exercises, stroke survivors need to consult their physician.
Are you doing only muscle-strengthening exercises? The evidence suggests you change it a little bit: blend cardio into it. Researchers have concluded that cardio with strength training exercises yields better walking ability, walking speed, and body balance (to a certain extent).
And, they also have concluded that muscle strength exercises alone do not improve walking ability.
The emphasis on cardio is a recent finding; traditionally, the rehab programs have been focused on gait training and balance.
This emphasis on cardio is because many who survive the stroke live with low levels of heart fitness; and, it could also be that those with low heart fitness are more likely to face a stroke.
What are the suitable cardio exercises?
Walking and cycling are the two commonest cardio exercises. The cardio strengthens the heart. That is why it is called cardio. However, before engaging in cardio, the physician should assess the heart fitness and the physiotherapist should recommend the types of cardio that need to follow. The Heart and Stroke Foundation has published an excellent patient guide. You can access this brochure through this link.
What are muscle fitness exercises? (resistance or strength training)
Some common examples of muscle fitness include pushing, pulling with elastic bands, and lifting weights. In these types of exercises, we do not exert pressure on the heart as much as in walking and cycling.
Range of motions and body balance exercises
Invariably, when we engage in the above two types of exercises, we certainly involve our joints with different types of range of motions and exercises that improve body balance.
About the research
In 2015, David Saunders and his team reviewed 58 clinical trials that compared people with a stroke and who engaged in special exercise sessions with a similar group of people who followed usual care. The total number of study participants involved in all these trials was 2797.
In this study, they classified physical fitness into three groups: heart fitness (endurance) training, muscle fitness (strength) training, and mixed training (a combination of the above two forms).
You can access the article through this link; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6464717/
Do you have any comments, ideas, or suggestions about how to blend cardio with strength exercises? Please initiate a discussion about it.
A guideline resource for exercise providers
The Ontario Stroke Network provides a useful guideline for community-based exercise providers; here is the link.
- How to regain movements after a stroke – general rules to follow
- Best practices to regain walking after a stroke
- How to recover arm and hand movements after a stroke
- Brain’s stroke recovery journey
- Aerobic exercises could improve recovery after stroke