Stroke patients are facing a new situation in the midst of the coronavirus crisis. And because many of them are in a high-risk population, they need to be practicing social distancing these days. That means therapy and doctor’s appointments might be canceled. But just because they can’t make it to their appointments, doesn’t mean that exercise is any less important. In fact, the more home-bound people are, the more focus needs to be put on staying healthy and keeping fit. What can a patient do at home during this time?
We have some tips on how you can continue to improve your walking even though you can’t make it to your therapy sessions. A new study confirms that stroke survivors can benefit from training like athletes do. You might feel like you are far away from training like a professional, but it’s important to incorporate their training principles.
HIIT training for stroke patients
A group of researchers from the University of Cincinnati decided to test if a common training method that athletes use could help stroke patients improve their walking. The method is called HIIT (high-intensity interval training), and it consists of varying the intensity of an exercise for different durations. Depending on how you engage in your intervals, you’ll end up training different things.
The researchers worked with 10 test patients and had them vary the way they walked. The patients had to walk quickly for a certain amount of time and then walk at a more comfortable pace for an active recovery phase. It turns out that when patients trained at a high intensity for short periods, their walking speed increased. And when they trained at a high intensity for longer periods, their endurance improved.
Adding HIIT to your program
Findings like this may not have made it into your regular therapy yet, but you can give it a try on your own. How can you start? Mix it up. Try short bouts (30 seconds) of high-intensity walking followed by low-intensity intervals (60 seconds) instead of a steady pace next time you are on the treadmill or out for a walk. On other days try to make those high-intensity intervals a little longer (3-4 minutes) followed by a longer period of low intensity walking (3 minutes).
If you have a treadmill, you can incorporate this method very easily at home. If not, check your current social distancing restrictions. You might be able to get outside for a walk and then you can time your intervals and vary your intensity. If you can’t get out and don’t have a treadmill, do this inside as best as you can. Get up every hour and walk for a few minutes varying the pace. Every little bit helps during this time. Stay home and stay fit.
The lead author of this study is Pierce Boyne from the Department of Rehabilitation, Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH.