The “guys” who come to the class are amazing. I have never seen such a group that works so hard and is so dedicated. They know the importance and benefits that exercise has on their overall health.
With diabetes, obesity and lack of exercise more prevalent among Americans, the frequency of people suffering a stroke is on the rise. According to the American Heart Association, someone will suffer a stroke every 45 seconds. It is the third leading cause of death in the United States and a leading cause of long-term disability.
If you or a loved one has suffered a stroke, it doesn’t mean the end of the world. Recovery after a stroke can be a slow process and different for each individual. A stroke can affect parts of a person’s brain that controls arms or legs, which results in weakness or paralysis in those muscles. Others have lost sensation or feelings in joints. Spasticity, an increase in muscle tightness, may make it hard to move an arm or leg. Balance, walking, language and coordination all can be affected.
The good news is many stroke victims — like the guys I mentioned above — can and do get better. According to the AHA, many patients even respond to low-level activities soon after suffering a stroke. Research shows sitting, standing and walking short distances while still in the hospital can be beneficial. If you have had a stroke and never really have done any type of physical activity, it is not too late. The important thing is that you do something.
The AHA recommends a training regimen consisting of aerobic, strength, flexibility and neuromuscular conditioning. Establishing an exercise program as part of your daily routine can help you get strong and fit despite the effects of the stroke. As always, talk with your physician before you begin any physical activity.
You should focus on large muscle group conditioning such as walking, stationary bike or arm ergometry.
Build endurance. This helps decrease cardiovascular disease and helps increase your independence.
Exercising should be performed 3 to 6 days per week for 20 to 60 minutes at a time. A victim can break this down into 10-minute segments and rest in between. The progress will be amazing if consistency occurs.
Using a treadmill is one of the most popular approaches to rehab and can be one of the most effective because the constant running of the treadmill surface provides patients with steady movement which can help develop an even gait, again. There are also many other cardio pieces of equipment that can provide great benefits.
Isometric exercises are a good place to start. Stand facing a door jam or cupboard and press against it.
The AHA recommends exercising the major muscle groups. Start out slowly and working up to 1 to 3 sets of 10 to 15 repetitions on 2 to 3 days per week. A victim might not be able to even grab a 1-pound dumbbell or hold an elastic band at first. Work up to it.
Flexibility exercises can increase the range of motion which can be affected by a stroke and can help in avoiding tight and shortened muscles.
Muscles in the neck, low back, shoulders, chest, calves and thighs should be stretched and held at least 30 seconds each.
Balance is the ability to hold your body in a constant, upright position while doing everyday tasks. We all know balance is extremely affected by a stroke.
Training in balance focuses on improved coordination and increases independence and confidence in walking and standing.
Fine motor skill exercises should be done with fingers and toes, i.e. picking up coins, curling your toes back or picking up objects with your toes, squeezing a ball and finger to finger touching.
Moving affected limbs is a must for someone who has had a stroke. A therapist or a loved one can help move them, sometimes stimulating the muscles with the memory of that movement. Motor imagery can be another effective way to restore some previous levels of mobility. Imagining the affected body part is moving like it used to sometimes can activate parts of the brain that can send signals to the muscles.
Motivation is a big issue for people who have had a stroke, and the guys I work with each week certainly are motivated. Tasks and movements that were so simple before can be huge obstacles for them, now. The key is to never give up. Stroke patients must set goals, figure out what excites them, keep their spirits high and never give up hope. By sticking with an exercise program, getting support and being positive, progress will win out.