Content Map Terms

Exercising to Prevent a Stroke

British Columbia Specific Information

A stroke is a brain injury caused by blood flow to the brain being blocked, or bleeding in the brain. After having a stroke you may experience physical, mental and emotional complications. These could include: weakness on one side of the body, joint pain, trouble walking, speech and language difficulties, trouble with memory or focusing, etc. Stroke rehabilitation programs can help you continue to live as independently as possible after a stroke, and to learn to adjust to the physical and mental changes caused by your stroke.

To find stroke recovery and rehabilitation programs in your area, search HealthLinkBC's FIND Services and Resources Directory. For more information on stroke recovery, visit Heart and Stroke Foundation or Stroke Recovery Association of British Columbia.

For more information on exercising to prevent a stroke or rehabilitation exercises after a stroke, call 8-1-1 to speak with a qualified exercise professional Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm PST. You may also call 8-1-1 to speak with a registered nurse 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Topic Overview

Exercise helps lower high blood pressure, which is an important risk factor for stroke. Exercise can help you control other things that put you at risk, such as obesity, high cholesterol and diabetes.

Exercise to lower your risk of stroke

It is important to exercise regularly. The best type of exercise for high blood pressure is aerobic exercise which uses large muscle groups continuously and rhythmically, such as walking and cycling. Try to do at least 2½ hours a week of moderate-to vigorous-intensity exercise. One way to do this is to be active 30 minutes a day, at least 5 days a week. It's fine to be active in blocks of 10 minutes or more throughout your day and week. Start slowly and gradually build up your exercise program. Muscle and bone strengthening exercises can also be done, but should complement rather than replace aerobic exercise.

Moderate-intensity aerobic and muscle and bone strengthening exercise is safe for most people, but it's always a good idea to talk with your healthcare provider before you start an exercise program. You can use your target heart rate to figure out how hard to exercise. Use this Interactive Tool: What Is Your Target Heart Rate?

Low-intensity exercise, if done daily, also can have some long-term health benefits and lower the risk for heart problems that may lead to stroke. Low-intensity exercises have a lower risk of injury and are recommended for people with other health problems. Some low-intensity activities are:

    • Walking.
    • Housework.
    • Stretching.

For more information about making a personal fitness plan, see the topic Fitness: Getting and Staying Active.

Exercise to prevent another stroke

If you have already had a stroke, ask your healthcare professional what type and level of activity is safe for you. Your healthcare professional may recommend individualised exercise plans to meet your needs and abilities.

If you are in a stroke rehab program, your rehab team can make an exercise program that is right for you.

Health Tools

Health Tools help you make wise health decisions or take action to improve your health.

Interactive tools are designed to help people determine health risks, ideal weight, target heart rate, and more.

References

Other Works Consulted

  • Eckel RH, et al. (2013). 2013 AHA/ACC guideline on lifestyle management to reduce cardiovascular risk: A report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines. Circulation. http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/early/2013/11/11/01.cir.0000437740.48606.d1.citation. Accessed December 5, 2013.
  • Kernan WN, et al. (2014). Guidelines for the prevention of stroke in patients with stroke and transient ischemic attack: A guideline for healthcare professionals from the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. Stroke, 45(7): 2160–2236. DOI: 10.1161/STR.0000000000000024. Accessed July 22, 2014.
  • Meschia JF, et al. (2014). Guidelines for the primary prevention of stroke: A statement for healthcare professionals from the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. Stroke, published online October 28, 2014. DOI: 10.1161/STR.0000000000000046. Accessed October 29, 2014.
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2008). 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (ODPHP Publication No. U0036). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. Available online: http://www.health.gov/paguidelines/guidelines/default.aspx.
  • Winstein CJ, et al. (2016). Guidelines for adult stroke rehabilitation and recovery: A guideline for healthcare professionals from the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. Stroke, published online May 4, 2016. DOI: 10.1161/STR.0000000000000098. Accessed June 3, 2016.

Credits

Adaptation Date: 9/23/2021

Adapted By: HealthLink BC

Adaptation Reviewed By: HealthLink BC