Exercises for Stroke Victims – Should You be Doing That?

One of the common messages I have seen in my research is that stroke victims need to exercise. But what kind of Exerciseexercises for stroke victims?

That’s a difficult question to answer and actually not even possible for me to answer as every stroke victim is different. You may have fully recovered from your stroke and then others may have long term physical problems that limit their exercise options.

The primary thing you need to do is talk to your doctor, physical therapist or healthcare provider and follow their advice.

Slow and Steady or HIIT

For this article I am going to be speaking to people that have fully recovered physically from their stroke or mostly recovered.

HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training. So, my question has to do with, is it better to take a long slow walk, for example, or spend 20 minutes doing interval sprints on a treadmill?

HIIT Training

One of the things I have already discovered in my research is that most recovering stroke victims do not get near the amount of exercise that we need. The other thing to consider is that most stroke patients are older and will not be as active as young people.

Another thing that keeps coming up to me in my personal life is that as I get older, I don’t want to workout as intense as I did when I was younger. But this is really the crux of my question here. Slow walk or intense speed walking or even more intense intervals of walking and running. This is just one example and this can be applied to any form of exercise.

I came across some research in NCBI called “High-intensity interval training in stroke rehabilitation.” There seems to be HIIT Trainingsome support for increasing our intensity in workouts over just taking it easy. This has led me farther down this path of HIIT training. I am well aware of HIIT training but mostly when it is used for younger folks, either athletes or those who are trying to drop weight quickly, but what about using it for people recovering from a stroke?

This is where I come back to personal observation and experience. There are many people more qualified than I am to research and present their findings on an academic level. My focus here is from a practical stand point. Does it make sense and does it fall in the category of common sense? To many times I think we look for some doctor or professor to write some scholarly article before we give our opinion but too often, experience and common sense gets left out of the picture when it should be front and center.

My Common Sense Approach to Exercise

Let’s start with a couple of ground rules. First, lets understand that I’m probably acting out similar to other stroke victims and let’s all agree that I am not the resident expert in this field.

WalkingMy exercise over the last four years has been more of the slow and steady type. I have found that I would rather take a long walk than go hit the gym hard or even just do interval training in the neighborhood with walking and running.

Now let’s all agree here that walking is a great form of exercise and if that’s all you’re doing than you are still doing better than most of the population.

The problem I have found is my energy levels are dropping and my metabolism also, among many other things. This is partly due to age but how much is due to the stroke and relegating myself to a slower, easier lifestyle.

This may be fine for you but again, I am bringing this back to my experience.

Walking regularly will help anyone lose weight who is also on a healthy eating plan so I don’t want to take away from that. But, there is something else I am noticing. I am not as strong, flexible or energetic as I used to be. Now, I can just blame it all on age but I’m not so sure that’s all there is to it. I am 52, presently and I have notice plenty of 50 year olds who are still extremely active. My point here is that I believe I am giving in too much to the age issue when I still have a lot of energy and ability to remain active.

So, what am I going to do?

Working Out Like a Healthy 50-Year Old

I believe to many times I will give into the stroke victim approach and say, “well I need to take it easy, as I have had a stroke and I am getting older.”

Nonsense! I’m 50 years old but I’m not dead!


It’s time for us to be sensible about our lives and what we are capable of. Don’t act like you’re 20 years old again and get stupid with exercise, but then don’t go to the other extreme and act like you’re in a nursing home and can’t go to fast or you’ll knock someone over.

The sensible thing to do is, first consult your doctor or health professional to get their advice on what activities you should be involved in and at what intensity. Second, go ahead and take some nice long walks, especially with the one you love, but don’t leave out the more intense training sessions where you really get your heart pumping.

It would sure be nice some day if someone would pick up your story and point to you as a great example of someone who stayed active, healthy and lived a long and rewarding life.

I haven’t given you a definitive answer here other than to consult with your medical professionals and stop thinking that you have to really take it easy. Your situation may require you to take it easy and if it does, then just be consistent with your exercising. However, if you can do more, than stop procrastinating, or thinking your too old.

Your most likely not to old. So be smart and consistent and go live a little.

8 thoughts on “Exercises for Stroke Victims – Should You be Doing That?”

  1. I really liked this article! I know my mother always uses her age as an excuse for, too many activities that I know she can do. I think there is a fear that she will hurt herself or look foolish, not sure. But thanks for sharing this valuable information!

    • You’re welcome. I use to think everyone was going to laugh at me when I lifted weights at the gym because there wasn’t enough weight on the bar. I finally realized that most people were just impressed that I was there plus I have learned to not care about what other people think. We all have to start some place.

  2. Great information. I have not had a stroke but I do have serious heart issues. I have been keeping up moderate level exercising but have been worried about pushing myself. It is a fine line.

    Think I have some new things to talk to the doc about…

    • Great point. I hope I never come across as “this is exactly what you need to do” because in reality we all have different situations and thinking through our options with heath professional is important. I just want to encourage people to think through things more and be willing to put some effort into helping yourself live better.

  3. Hi Rick, and thanks for such an informative post about this form of exercise for stroke victims. I am curious if there is an age limit for the use of HIIT regardless of whether they have had a stroke?

    • That’s a great question and something each individual should discuss with their doctor. Maybe a better word to use would be “intense” workout than just a casual walk or swim. We all have limits and of course that changes as we age but it’s important to get your heart pumping and sometimes a slow and easy exercise won’t be enough, even though it is still good.


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