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Physio assisting elderly woman during exercise with power band a

The Importance of Exercise Following A Stroke

According to the American Heart Association, 700,000 people annually in the United States suffer a stroke.(1)  The incidence of stroke is likely to continue to escalate because of an expanding population of elderly Americans; a growing epidemic of diabetes, obesity, and physical inactivity among the general population; and a greater prevalence of heart failure patients.(2)

Following a stroke, survivors will often work with Physical and Occupational Therapists to restore strength and control through exercise programs. However, most insurance companies only pay for a certain number of therapy sessions per calendar year which can leave a gap in the rehabilitation process. It’s important to continue the exercises that a physical therapist has prescribed and progress safely through an exercise program to regain strength and functional movement. This is where a certified personal trainer with experience in rehabilitative exercises can come in. A certified personal trainer can be part of the healthcare team and can design a program which is both safe and functional.  Walking, flexibility exercises, and light strength training can help a stroke survivor continue on the path of rehabilitation. Swimming is also another beneficial form of exercise if a pool is available.

Another benefit of exercise for stroke survivors is prevention of recurrent stroke or heart attack, which occurs frequently in people who have had a stroke.(3)  Reducing risk factors can decrease the incidence of recurrent strokes and coronary events. An aerobic conditioning program can enhance glucose regulation and promote decreases in body weight and fat stores, blood pressure, C-reactive protein, and levels of total blood cholesterol, serum triglycerides, and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol.(4) Exercise also increases high-density lipoprotein cholesterol and improves blood rheology, hemostatic variables, and coronary endothelial function.(5)

It is very important that a personal trainer communicate with healthcare professionals about their client after a stroke, including the physician and physical & occupational therapists to best help the client. Safety should always come first when exercising. Overexertion and pain should always be avoided. Decrease in balance, spasticity(6), memory, and fatigue is common after a stroke. Like everyone else, stroke survivors will have good days and bad days. However, modification of exercises can help after a stroke to get individuals on the path to better physical health.


Kris Pritchett Cameron is the owner of ReNu Your Life Fitness & Neuro Wellness in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and a certified personal trainer through the American Council on Exercise. Kris has dedicated over 20 years to the health and fitness of others. Kris has worked with all ages from children to the elderly, but her specialty is medical fitness and working with older adults. With a background in healthcare and physical rehabilitation, Kris has experience working with clients who have orthopedic injuries, arthritis, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, bariatric surgery, mental disorders, and stroke. 

References

  • American Heart Association. Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics-2003 Update, Dallas TX
  • Gillum RF, Sempos CT. The end of the long-term decline in stroke mortality in the United States? Stroke 1997; 28:1527-1529
  • Mol VJ, Baker CA, Activity intolerance in the geriatric stroke patient, Rehabil Nurs. 1991; 16:337-343
  • Franklin BA, Sanders W. Reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke. Physician Sports Med. 2000; 28: 19-26
  • Hambrecht R, Wolf A, Gielen S, et al. Effect of exercise on coronary endothelial function in patients with coronary artery disease. N Engl J Med. 2000; 342: 454-460
  • Spasticity is a condition where muscles are stiff and resist being stretched. It can be found throughout the body, but is common in the arms, fingers, or legs. Hope: The Stroke Recovery Guide. 2010 National Stroke Association
wellness-coach

Caring for the Caregiver

In honor of all of the caregivers who unselfishly give your time, care, and energy, I want to encourage you to take time for yourselves. I know from experience that this idea of “self-time” may seem to be only a dream. You may arise early in the morning, go to bed late at night, and wake up throughout the night to care for your loved one. Where is the time for yourself?

However, when you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t have the energy or patience to care for others. Lack of exercise, lack of sleep, stress, and poor diet will only leave you feeling run down. So how can you find that precious time without adding more hours to your day?

First of all, don’t think you have to get to the gym or commit a large amount of time. This may leave you feeling more stressed, especially when circumstances don’t allow it. Instead, start small and change your thinking. Can you find 10 minutes to take a walk around the block? Can you do exercises in your living room while watching TV?

Here are six ideas to find time to take care of yourself throughout the day:

1. Take a 5-10 minute walk around the block. Do this once, twice, or three times a day. Set a reminder on your phone or calendar, but be flexible with the time. If circumstances prevent you from getting out at 8:00, don’t skip it. Move it to a different time.

2. Print a list of simple exercises that you can do and place it on your coffee table. Do exercises while watching TV or while your loved one is sleeping. Leave a pair of dumbbells or a resistance band next to the sofa to get a quick workout. March in place during commercials, perform 10 sit to stands or squats and 10 wall or sofa pushups every 15 minutes during the program you are watching.

man doing yoga at home with eye closed3. Take 5-10 minutes to do stretches, deep breathing, meditation, or yoga before you go to bed at night. Just a short amount of time will help to reduce tension in the muscles and relax the mind and body.

4. Sign up for sites such as Caring Bridge or Meal Train. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to ask for help. Whether it’s an encouraging word or a meal a few nights a week, these sites will allow others to take some of the burden off of you. Learn more at www.caringbridge.org and www.mealtrain.com.

5. Plan your meals for the week on the weekend. Make a grocery list with needed ingredients for each meal, shop, and cook the foods that can be prepared ahead of time. Meals do not have to be complicated. For example, cook brown rice on Sunday and refrigerate. Tuesday night, heat the rice, add a can of drained black beans, salsa, and a little shredded cheese. Serve with warmed tortillas for a quick, easy, and healthy meal.

6. Join a local support group or an online support group. Being with others who are going through a similar situation can create a supportive network of friends. If a local support group isn’t available, check out www.caregiveraction.org for online support. There is help and encouragement available. You give unselfishly of your time and energy. Reach out and allow others to help you.


Kris Pritchett Cameron has dedicated over 20 years to the health and fitness of others.  She has built a career on not just “working out” clients, but by helping individuals find the keys they need to unlock a healthier lifestyle. She is the owner of ReNu Your Life Fitness and Neuro Wellness in Coralville, Iowa.

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Exercise, Parkinson’s Disease and Hope

I recently heard someone say, “Parkinson’s is not a death sentence, it’s a life sentence”. I don’t expect exercise to cure PD, but it does help just as it helps many other diseases. I once had a neurologist, who was not keen on my presentation of the Parkinson’s exercise program (his research showed no results with exercise on Parkinson’s disease) tell me, you don’t want to give people false hope. I don’t see it as false hope, I see hope.