We know that healthy people benefit from resistance training. But can it help stroke patients as well? Researchers from Brazil asked this question.
Resistance training includes working with body weight, bands, and dumbbells or barbells to build muscle. A research team from Brazil investigated a dozen studies that examined the effects that this type of training had on stroke patients. What they discovered is that load-bearing exercise helps stroke patients regain their strength and endurance.
The researchers reviewed the current evidence and evaluated how training intervals, rest periods between exercise sets, repetitions, intensity, duration, and frequency of resistance training affected stroke patients. Multiple studies reported that resistance training leads to better walking speed, improved balance, and the ability to transfer (i.e., move from a chair to a bed).
The role of resistance training in improving quality of life
Though there were the expected improvements in muscle power and strength, resistance training provided some unexpected positive results for stroke patients as well. Resistance training markedly improved the quality of life for stroke patients by helping alleviate anxiety and improving cognition.
Why might resistance training be good for your overall quality of life? It seems that lifting weights is more beneficial than previously thought. By building stronger muscles, you can perform more functional activities that are part of everyday life. Though it might not seem like much to most people, the ability to be strong enough to engage in daily activities makes a huge difference. Your ability to walk or brush your teeth can determine if you can live independently.
What’s unique about resistance training is its ability to train endurance. Endurance is especially vital for stroke patients since many daily tasks require the muscles to stay active for prolonged periods of time. Researchers found that increased endurance from this form of training was even more pronounced in stroke patients compared to other healthy adults.
Get guidance before you start
The best part about weight training is that it’s relatively inexpensive and straightforward to do. You can do it at home or a local gym! However, resistance training isn’t yet that popular in stroke rehabilitation. Since it can have adverse effects on blood pressure, it isn’t for everyone. If you’re interested in resistance training, find a specialist who has experience working with stroke patients. Studies show that stroke patients who work with a professional can safely use weight training and reap its benefits.
You might find that in addition to getting stronger, you could improve your mood and think more clearly. As always, discuss your desire to start training with your doctor first before beginning any new program. Though it might seem harmless to lift a couple of weights, overexertion can do more harm than good!
The lead author of the original article was Dr. Bavaresco Gambassi, Faculty of Physical Education at the University of Campinas, Campinas, SP, Brazil.