Strokes are caused by a lack of oxygen supply to the brain. Stroke can lead to brain damage, impaired mobility and in some cases death. Not all strokes influence one’s mental capacity however often the impact of a stroke is not known until a period of time after the event itself.
There is a large body of literature looking into the impact of activity in animals post stroke. Many individuals may be anxious about engaging in physical activity after a cerebrovascular event however literature suggests that activity may be hugely beneficial even in the early stages after an event has occurred (Austin et al, 2014).
Lesions refer to brain tissue that has suffered damage after a stroke. The volume of lesions often dictate the severity of lasting impact of the event therefore it is in an individual’s best interest to attempt to reduce the size of lesions as best possible.
Animal data suggests that engaging in physical activity may shrink lesions up to 28 days post stroke. Aerobic exercise of between 20-30 minutes 5-7 days per week demonstrates significant positive influence.
Interestingly however engagement in exercise 24 hours after a stroke may have greater benefit than later engagement in exercise. Longer exercise durations may also protect damaged tissue that would typically die in individuals not engaging in physical activity.
It appears that when looking to reduce the impact of a stroke, low to moderate exercise over longer duration is preferable to higher intensity exercise, which may also marginally increase risk of further cardiovascular event.
Although these findings are present in animal populations and therefore can’t yet be applied directly to human populations they do certainly demonstrate the incredible power of engagement in physical activity. Perhaps in the future individuals who have experienced a stroke may be engaging in activity as little as 24 hours after the occurrence itself, incredible.
Jack Barton (Researcher, Rescon Ltd)
Austin, M. W., Ploughman, M., Glynn, L., & Corbett, D. R. (2014). Aerobic Exercise Effects on Neuroprotection and Brain Repair Following Stroke: A Systematic Review and Perspective. Neuroscience Research.