It's really important to exercise after a stroke to aid in recovery and to help prevent further potential strokes. However, it can be unclear how to even start, and know which exercises to do.
Since every stroke is unique and everyone experiences different secondary effects, the ideal exercises can differ from person to person.
Different stroke types, the specific brain region affected, and the severity of symptoms all play a role in determining the most suitable exercise for each person.
Some may be capable of engaging in active exercise right after a stroke, whereas others may need to start with assisted exercise.
We tend to focus on 4 areas 1. Promoting a positive outlook
2. Re-learning movements
3. Strength & Flexibility 4. Preventing further issues
Promoting a Positive Outlook
Keeping the client positive & optimistic, although keeping realistic is a key starting point. We see a lot of people who have had a stroke or similar neurological issues lose hope and start to accept that they are powerless to recover, remember that the body will follow what the mind believes which is why this stage is paramount and in my opinion, not optional. This always reminds me of a famous quote by Henry Ford, Whether you believe you can do a thing or not, you are right. Recovery from a stroke is no exception.
Neuroplasticity is the brain's amazing power to restructure itself and learn new (and in this re-learn lost) abilities.
It's the reason why stroke patients can regain skills they once lost, such as walking, dressing, and carrying out daily activities. With repetition and consistent therapy exercises, people can re-establish connections between the brain and healthy regions, ultimately restoring lost functions.
Like learning anything, repetition is key! Over time a lot of these movements can return somewhere nearer the level pre-stroke, sometimes recovering altogether. Having someone who has taken a personal approach is another factor that we have found extremely effective, everyone is different so having an approach tailored to that person is the best way forward.
Strength & Flexibility
Once new connections are made and the neurological side of things have been considered, we must also address muscles that have deteriorated, lost strength or muscles that need additional strength to support new muscle function. We need to also consider muscle tightness caused during stroke recovery, or tightness that was already present and is now being highlighted. This can sometimes start very small, with passive work with an exercise professional, this can then be adapted over time to include larger ranges of movement, heavier weights and/or resistance bands. As the individual progresses it is usually good practice to make the exercises more and more functional as recovery and strength are gained. For example, if the goal is weight-bearing on your legs, this may start lying down or seated but eventually may be standing or even unassisted walking. Having a progressive outlook to planning is essential if the rehabilitation allows.
Preventing further issues
Addressing heart and lung health may prevent any further issues from occurring, this can sometimes become tricky, especially in the early days of rehabilitation, but should be added at the earliest opportunity.
If a physical approach is not possible then consider other routes such as eating to promote better health such as eating more fruit and veg, drinking plenty of fluids, keeping sugar and salt at a minimum and adding healthy fats to your diet.
Outlook can be hard after a stroke, however, with the correct rehabilitation, approach, outlook and a little patience the outcome can be positive and the quality of life can be improved.
Whether you believe you can do a thing or not, you are right.