Exercise is essential for overall maintenance of your health. But how soon is too soon to start exercising after you’ve suffered a stroke? People need to take the time to let their bodies heal, and too much strenuous activity can be harmful. On the flip side, waiting too long to begin training again, may mean missing some precious opportunities for rehabilitation.
Chinese researchers wanted to look at the science backing this question. When is it too early to start training after a stroke? They looked at many different kinds of studies, including stroke patients exercising in the chronic phase. However, we have summarized only their take-home message on early rehabilitation.
When should you start exercise after a stroke?
They found that within 24 hours after a stroke, the jury was still out. Some authors say that stroke patients can safely engage in mobilization exercises. These are light activities that involve getting the patient from point A to point B, sometimes with assistance from a walker or therapist. However, some researchers disagree. They believe that mobilization within 24 hours after a stroke might be too soon, and may increase damage to the brain. Though on the bright side, early initiated exercise (24 to 72 hours following stroke) might exert benefits after a stroke. These conclusions, however, are based on animal studies and have not yet been verified in humans.
What type of exercise should a stroke patient perform?
A voluntary exercise program was shown to be superior to a forced one when measuring functional recovery of a stroke patient. Also, different types of exercise could exert benefits for stroke rehabilitation, including endurance training, aquatic exercise training, and periodic acceleration to name a few.
The best post-stroke exercises that are safe after three days of recovery include passive and active training. Researchers found that both these types of activities improve arm and hand function. Treadmill training can also be helpful in promoting walking ability. The form of exercise chosen is more important than the intensity of the training. Be sure to design your exercise program with a therapist.
However, you want to pay attention to the intensity too, so you don’t overload your healing body. Did you know that light intensity for more extended periods of time can help protect your nerves? It’s a point to consider when weighing the pros and cons of light versus moderate to heavy intensity training. Indeed, the researchers found that all intensity levels for an exercise training could exert benefits by protecting the brain from stroke injury, but mild and moderate intensity exercise training could generate better protection for the brain when compared with high-intensity exercise training.
Ultimately, it’s always best to consult with your doctor and physical therapist before deciding on any particular exercise.
Rest, then get moving!
If you’ve just suffered a stroke, give your body a rest for at least a day before starting to get up and going. In addition to that, the research on early stroke exercise is still pretty preliminary, so always follow the guidelines recommended by your healthcare team!
The lead author of the original article was Ying Xing, from the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, The Third Hospital of Hebei Medical University, Shijiazhuang, PR China.