The one habit crucial for stroke recovery

I love writing about discoveries that can change our lives and make us healthier.

But what I really enjoy reporting on are the stories that confirm something positive that we already know.

It’s research that doesn’t present a new and earth-shattering discovery. Rather, it tells us that we’ve been on the right track all along.

Such is the case with a recent study that looks at how exercise can change the long-term outcomes for people who have suffered a stroke.

Many people think that exercise is something to be avoided post-stroke. But these studies tell quite a different story…

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Exercise for stroke survival, recovery and cognition

In 2021, a study with almost 900 participants showed a 54 percent reduction in death risk among stroke survivors who walked or gardened at least three to four hours per week, or who biked at least two to three hours per week.

And, among stroke survivors who were under 75 years of age, only 11 percent of those who exercised for three to four hours a week died, compared with 29 percent of those who did not exercise.

Now a Swedish study confirms that people who spend four hours a week exercising after a stroke achieve better functional recovery within six months than those who do not exercise.

The study, based on 1500 stroke patients, shows that increased or maintained physical activity that includes four hours of weekly exercise doubled a patient’s chances of recovering well, both cognitively and functionally.

Dr. Dongni Buvarp, a researcher in clinical neuroscience at the University of Gothenburg, explains the results this way:

“Physical activity reprograms both the brain and the body favorably after a stroke. Exercise improves the body’s recovery at the cellular level, boosts muscle strength and well-being, and reduces the risk of falls, depression, and cardiovascular disease. Regardless of how severe the stroke has been, those affected can derive benefits from exercising more,” she says.

She also notes that “women and people with impaired cognition seem to become less active after stroke. The study results indicate that these groups need more support to get going with physical activity.”

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Keep your brain young for best recovery

No one wants to think they’re going to have a stroke. But the fact is that someone in the United States has one, every 40 seconds, and someone dies of a stroke about every three minutes.

So don’t stick your head in the sand.

One thing you can do now is to keep your brain young. It could be an “insurance policy” against possible stroke damage in the future.

Dr. Sook-Lei Liew is part of ENIGMA, a collaborative working group of more than 100 experts worldwide who pool together post-stroke MRI data in an effort to shed more light on the mechanisms of stroke recovery.

“The health of your overall brain can protect you from the functional consequences of stroke. That is, the healthier your brain is, first, the less likely you are to have a stroke, and second, the less likely you are to have poor outcomes if you do have a stroke,” says Dr. Liew.

Get started now. There are a lot of ways you can support your brain’s health, especially signs of aging like shrinkage and volume.

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Physical activity crucial for poststroke recovery — Eureka Alert

Exercise Significantly Improves Post-Stroke Outcomes, Study Finds — Integrative Practitioner

Physical Activity Trajectories and Functional Recovery After Acute Stroke Among Adults in Sweden — JAMA 

International study shows link between brain age and stroke outcomes — Eureka Alert

Stroke facts — Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

ENIGMA Stroke Recovery —  University of Southern California

Joyce Hollman

By Joyce Hollman

Joyce Hollman is a writer based in Kennebunk, Maine, specializing in the medical/healthcare and natural/alternative health space. Health challenges of her own led Joyce on a journey to discover ways to feel better through organic living, utilizing natural health strategies. Now, practicing yoga and meditation, and working towards living in a chemical-free home, her experiences make her the perfect conduit to help others live and feel better naturally.