Immediately after a stroke, you may be involved in a highly regimented rehabilitation program, which helps you regain a lot of your mobility. But after rehab and therapy end, what can you do to continue to improve and help avoid a second stroke? No matter what your level of mobility is, the answer is to get your body moving once you have clearance from your doctor.
Benefits of exercise
Regular exercise has many health benefits, whether you’ve had a stroke or not. Exercise can keep your heart healthy, lower your cholesterol and blood pressure, and stabilize your blood sugar. It can help maintain a healthy weight, slow the clogging of arteries, and help you sleep better at night.
Of course, exercise also helps tone your muscles and prevent atrophy, which as a stroke survivor, is particularly important for you. It can also help you improve your coordination, balance, and visual perception, which are often lingering problems after a stroke. It may even reduce pain as it reduces muscle stiffness. All these benefits can help you return to a state of independence, which can improve your mood and your sense of confidence.
The right exercises for you
Before you start exercising, talk to your doctor to develop a customized exercise plan based on your particular condition. Then start moving.
You may need to begin with exercises in bed. If so, don’t feel discouraged by a slow start. It’s often best to start slow because it will give your body time to acclimate to the new activity and will build your confidence.
Bed exercises may include pulling your knees up to your chest or as far as you can. Give yourself a goal and work towards it. You may do arm stretches or roll from side to side. A good physical therapist can suggest helpful exercises to tone and strengthen, even while lying in bed.
As you strengthen, graduate to a chair. Try marching your feet while watching TV. Listen to music and march along or try some dance moves while seated. Again, your PT can suggest movements that would be beneficial.
Don’t limit your sitting to inside. Go out in the fresh air, soak up some Vitamin D, and maybe garden in some raised beds or bend down from your seat and do some weeding. These practical movements can be very helpful because they may stretch body parts that might be missed in the usual exercises. Besides, being outside in good weather is a proven mood-lifter.
If you can stand but you’re not sturdy on your feet, try marching in place while holding onto a walker or the wall. Pretend to walk until you feel confident enough to actually walk. Then take that step. You can have your walker, a wall, or a friend beside you to make you feel safe, but take those steps, and keep walking a little more each day. And as with seated exercise, once you feel confident, start walking outside. Walk on your porch with a chair nearby, then go a little farther as you feel comfortable until you’re marching around the block.
Don’t like to walk? How about dancing? How about miniature golf? Find something to do that you like.
Exercise with others and set goals
If you can exercise with friends, family, or a group of some kind, you will probably enjoy it more and stick to it longer. Join an exercise class or sign up for a personal trainer at a gym. Walk with your grandchildren or try throwing a ball to them. If you can’t throw yet, roll the ball. Small children will just love to be with you, and older children will love to help you get well again.
Set both small goals and large ones. Small goals may be “by the end of the week I will walk from the lounge chair to the table.” Your large goal will probably be independence. What do you miss the most? Making your own sandwiches? Caring for your own personal hygiene? Tending your gardens? Decide your big goal, tell your loved ones, and keep it always in mind as you continually create small goals to bring you closer and closer to the big one.
Keep yourself healthy
After all that work, you don’t want to have another stroke. At Neuralert Technologies, we are committed to ending the devastation caused by strokes. We encourage you to discuss with your doctor the likely risk factors that contributed to your stroke and take all necessary steps to reduce the risk of a second stroke. Exercise is part of that plan. A stroke detection monitor may be another part of that plan. Our stroke detection wristbands look like a smartwatch, but their patented AI algorithm is able to alert medical staff to the possible onset of another stroke by monitoring arm movement asymmetry, one of the primary initial indicators of stroke onset.
Quick treatment decreases the severity of the effects of stroke. Talk to your doctor about adding Neuralert to your stroke rehabilitation and prevention plan.