The stroke itself was terrifying. The uncertainty of “how did this happen to me?”, the rush of physicians, specialists and discomfort of medical treatments were often overwhelming.
Now, you’re recovering, but still extremely tentative about your health. How much exercise is enough? How much is too much? Can’t you just sit on the couch and be safe for the rest of your life?
Unfortunately, no. Becoming active after a stroke – or any health crisis – is vital to a full recovery.
Exercise lowers your blood pressure and improves your heart function. It helps lowers your cholesterol. Activity lowers your risk of developing diabetes, or improves your existing condition. When you are recovering from a stroke, it’s also magnificent mentally. It reduces depression and anxiety and, because there is always improvement however small, you build self-confidence.
Talk to Vascular Specialists first.
Your exercise program should be part of your physician-approved overall recovery plan. Consult with your Vascular Specialists physician, Dr. Tanquilut, Dr. Pradhan or Dr. Alhalbouni, when considering which activities are most appropriate for your unique situation.
Don’t worry about where your fitness level and capabilities were before the stroke. Start wherever you are now and build your progress slowly, even if you can only manage just 5 minutes a day. Keep track of increasing range of motion in your arms and legs, ounces lifted, steps taken, or minutes pedaled. Seeing gradual improvement is motivating – and when you make a big leap in ability, you’ll feel absolutely amazing.
it’s okay to change up your exercise patterns.
If you biked before but are now unable to stand or balance, start with chair yoga or Pilates. These activities will build strength, gently tone muscles and improve balance. If you swam laps but find your arms and legs have different ability levels, try water aerobics or water walking. You’ll take advantage of natural buoyancy, low impact and gentle resistance, while adding the advantage of making new friends in a group setting. If you walked 18 holes of golf every weekend, ask the course about accessibility and the Savings Strokes program. You may be able to borrow a modified cart that will get you outdoors, on the course, swinging and socializing.
Include a little bit of everything, often.
Make sure your exercise program includes balance training, strength training and cardio. Balance training is important to prevent falls and build your confidence in your improving physical abilities. Strength training helps rehabilitate your muscles, allowing you to accomplish more and more daily tasks. Cardio builds that heart muscle and improves your vascular system. It’s also important to exercise often, ideally 5-6 days each week.
Listen to your body.
Stop your exercise immediately and call our office if you experience dizziness, overwhelming fatigue, fainting, leg cramps, chest pain or wheezing.
Don’t underestimate the importance of exercise in avoiding a second stroke.
You really cannot just sit on the couch. Experts advise avoiding a second stroke by managing blood pressure, atrial fibrillation and cholesterol and controlling diabetes, all of which is aided by exercise. Studies show that patients who exercise 5 or more times per week are less likely to have a stroke.
Do you have questions about your activity after a stroke? Our Vascular Specialists medical professionals are always here to help! Just call 815-824-4406.