Does Exercise Really Prevent Stroke?

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Physical fitness is often recommended as one of the practical ways to prevent a stroke. Exercise provides easy to observe, obvious benefits when it comes to weight loss and maintaining an attractive appearance. But it is quite a bit more difficult to picture the long-term benefits of physical activity when it comes to a disease like stroke.

For some people, working out is fun, exhilarating and energizing.

For others, exercise is truly a source of dread. Most of us are somewhere in between- exercise sounds like fun but it sure is a lot of trouble. And how do I know if it is really worth it? Many people would exercise for a long-term benefit only if they knew for sure that exercise could actually produce a long-term advantage.

Does Exercise Really Work in Stroke Prevention?

To help find the answer to that question, scientists have done numerous research experiments to measure the benefits of exercise. When it comes to stroke, scientific studies time and time again have verified that working out, even in moderate doses, can help prevent a stroke.

What Kind of Exercise?

One research study published in the January 2014 issue of ‘Stroke’ evaluated over 4000 patients and demonstrated a decreased risk of stroke associated with time spent walking. Another research article published in the journal ‘Cerebrovascular Disease’ reported that patients who had already had a stroke and later participated in aerobic exercise had a better overall improvement.

Aerobic exercise is the type of exercise that requires fast paced energy, as opposed to weight lifting or stretching exercises. Water therapy is another very interesting type of exercise that is usually gentler on the muscles and has been shown to help increase blood flow to the brain, which can be immensely helpful in preventing stroke and in stroke recovery.

Because so many different types of exercise have been shown to prevent stroke, exercise does not have to be painful and it definitely does not have to be one size fits all. Tailoring your exercise to your personality, preferences and abilities is definitely the best way to go. There are so many different ways to stay physically fit that it doesn't have to be a bitter pill- it can be a fun, no matter who you are.

How Does it Work?

One of the well-understood ways that exercise helps in preventing stroke is through heart fitness. Another very interesting way that exercise can help prevent stroke is through actual neuroplasticity caused by growth of neurons in the brain.

Staying Safe

The possibility that exercise could be risky for stroke patients has been a long-standing concern for patients, their loved ones, and healthcare professionals. A recent article out of Spain published in The European Journal of Internal Medicine has provided reassurance that exercise is safe for stroke patients. It is rare for moderate exercise to cause harm.

Check with your doctor to make sure that you do not have a physical reason to avoid a particular type of exercise and then- get started!

Sources:

Pang MY, Charlesworth SA, Lau RW, Chung RC, Using aerobic exercise to improve health outcomes and quality of life in stroke: evidence-based exercise prescription recommendations, Cerebrovascular Disease, February 2014 

Jefferis BJ, Whincup PH, Papacosta O, Wannamethee SG, Protective effect of time spent walking on risk of stroke in older men, Stroke, January 2014

Ploughman M, Austin MW, Glynn L, Corbett D, The Effects of Poststroke Aerobic Exercise on Neuroplasticity: A Systematic Review of Animal and Clinical Studies, Translational Stroke Research, July 2014

Pugh CJ, Sprung VS, Ono K, Spence AL, Thijssen DH, Carter HH, Green DJ, The Impact of Water Immersion during Exercise on Cerebral Blood Flow, Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, June 2014

Bouzas-Mosquera Mdel C, Bouzas-Mosquera A, Peteiro J, Broullón FJ, Alvarez-García N, Castro-Beiras A, Exaggerated exercise blood pressure response and risk of stroke in patients referred for stress testing, European Journal of Internal Medicine, July 2014

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