If you’ve had a stroke, life can get scary. The thought of exercise, or adding stress to your heart, can be even scarier.
But exercise can help with recovery, potentially reduce the risk of a repeated cardiac event, and promote a healthier heart.
You just can’t rush into it.
There is very limited data on exactly how much exercise, how soon after the event, is safe and recommended. Research teams are exploring exact guidelines, but there seems to be a common consensus that engaging in the activity is a worthwhile component of recovery, especially compared to being sedentary.
Just how much really comes down to capability. Some experts suggest starting with five or ten minutes of moderate-intensity exercise four times per week. If you’re capable of more, work up to 20 minutes twice per week.
A study published in May found that exercising for at least 150 minutes per week for at least 12 weeks after a stroke could help improve quality of life.
Another factor to consider is procedures that may have taken place. If there is some surgical healing, a return to exercise – at least at a high intensity – may take a little longer.
And of course, there is the mental aspect. If you were highly active before the stroke, it will be very difficult not to jump back into it, or, conversely, feel apprehension. For the former, ease back in under the guidance of specialists. For the latter, focus on doing what you can at a lower intensity.
You don’t have to go out for a run. Instead, maybe a walk. Perhaps even going up and down the stairs a few times will be all you’re capable of (both physically and mentally).
Things can be touch and go with exercise following a stroke, but generally speaking, most experts suggest it’s a good idea to get moving.