I can’t say enough about exercise. It’s a vital component of the stroke recovery process. Exercise makes you feel great and it really is addictive. It elevates your mood, improves heart health, and increases your brain power; and working out gives you a real energy boost. I go to the gym early in the morning because it’s less crowded, with shorter waits for machines.  It’s good to be around others who are exercising. It spurs you on. Go with a friends and have a social coffee afterward.

 I used to be very shy about my body because I’m heavy, but since my stroke I’m a lot less sensitive and compete only with myself. Everyone has problems even if you can’t physically see them, so don’t worry about people gawking. People are just people, and are curious at first, but I have received only support and encouragement at my gym. (though mostly I’m just ignored because people really get lost in their own workout zone when they are exercising!) You will very likely encourage others by your example.

For the past few months I’ve had to cut out much of my beloved exercise because I will be getting Botox injections in my affected arm and leg (which I will explain in another section). The strength of the extensor muscles in my toes has increased, causing a “claw-foot”, and throwing off my gait. My wonky gait has resulted in bilateral gluteus muscle strains. Since I’ve decreased my exercise my stamina has noticeably decreased and my walking has become jerkier. I can’t wait to get back to it!

I try every machine in the gym as long as it’s safe. It may take some time to figure a way to use it with my weakened arm and leg, but I eventually get it.


Cardiac strengthening:

A strong heart muscle pumps blood more efficiently around the body bringing important nutrients and oxygen to the cells. This is important for repairing damaged cells, bringing blood to the brain, and fighting infection. And the heart pump becomes more efficient and less prone to cardiac arrhythmias that may cause clot formation. Clot formation can be caused by the slowing down of blood flow in veins and arteries, and when the blood hits rough patches such as cholesterol plaques, it becomes more turbulent and is more prone to form clots.

Core body strength:

Core body strength, or abdominal strength, is important to maintain balance and posture. Did you know that much back pain is caused by weak stomach muscles, and that back pain lessons considerably with core exercise? And increasing muscle strength helps to improve the rate of blood flow back to the heart and decreases blood stasis or slowing down of blood in your limbs, particularly the legs where clots tend to form. And increasing core strength can prevent falls-always important.

See the following web page for examples of core exercises. http://www.athleticadvisor.com/weight_room/core_strength.htm

It wasn’t until I was referred to Toronto Rehabilitation Institute’s Rumsey Cardiac Program for stroke survivors, that I really began to “wake up”. Rumsey Cardiac Centre, under Director Dr. Paul Oh, began a pilot program for stroke patients several years ago. The patients go once a week for exercise instruction from trained physiotherapists. Each patient is given a pre-class stress test and an exercise program is designed specifically for them. Each patient is monitored closely during class and progress is recorded each week. You use bands and tubes, or weights to exercise your weak limbs and improve core strength; and walk around the track or use aerobic gym equipment (treadmill, elliptical machine etc.) for aerobic cardiac strengthening. Special attention is given to balance. Each patient is asked to do a prescribed daily exercise routine at home. In addition to exercise, patients were given education on cardiac health, diet, mood regulation, and tips on exercising in all types of weather. Patient safety was paramount.

Stroke is often  a form of heart disease.Blood clots that might block an artery in the heart causing a heart attack, go to the brain instead, and cause a stroke. Location, location, location!
When I began the program, my affected arm was useless and my limp pronounced. After 6 months I could walk a mile around the track and lift 5 lbs with my affected arm, 12 lbs. with my good arm. I grew to love exercising. After the program ended I joined a gym where I go 3-5 times per week and have increased my treadmill speed from .5 miles per hour up as high as 2.8. I was able to improve “the recovery time” of my right foot substantially. The recovery time is the length of time it takes your affected limb to adjust to your gait speed (foot switching). This recovery time is what really holds me back on the treadmill and I’m constantly working on it.

Other gym equipment I have used:


There is a fairly new type of elliptical by Precor that allows more foot movement and is a terrific workout.

Precor 5.33 Home EFX Elliptical

 Elliptical machines allow equal recovery time for both legs as it assists your affected leg to return in a normal "running position".I t allows you to mimic a normal gait which is a good training exercise for the brain!I manipulate my claw (as my kids call it) around the arm of the elliptical machine and can hold on for a short time to allow for exercise of my arm. I am quite convinced that this (along with other exercises) has helped me to regain use of my affected arm,. This elliptical is expensive though, and you can buy much cheaper ones or look on Craig’s list, where there’s often someone giving away exercise equipment for free. http://toronto.en.craigslist.ca/


Make sure you use one that has a .5mph function. I needed to go fairly slowly at the beginning until my recovery time increased. I also like treadmills with good bar enclosures because I need to hold on with my good limb for balance when I walk. I love working out on a treadmill because I can go at my own pace and easily increase and decrease my speed as needed.

Pacemaker Silver Select

Exercise bikes

Many people enjoy the indoor bike. It’s small enough that you can set it up almost anywhere in the house and easy to hop on on those cold rainy days. I found that my weak knee was not strong enough to maintain the ergonomically correct position, and I ended up with a painful clicking in my knee. Even now I’m only so-so on it. The upright bikes with backrests and comfortable seats are best for beginners.

Bremshey Comfort Control Recumbent Bike-Step Thru

NB: I am not endorsing any single type or make of equipment but those similar to the ones that work well for me.

 I love to use noise- canceling headphones to block background gym noise and listen to my favourite music. Choose upbeat music to get you going. I use many rock and rap songs that have a beat that matches my current gate; slower ones to warm up, faster ones when I increasing in speed  in the middle of my workout, and slower ones again for cool down.

 If you connect an IPod to ITunes (or other musical selection sites) on your computer, you can pay a buck for songs you like and listen to them first for appropriateness. Better yet, get your children or grandchildren to copy you some of their workout music. If you search “workout music” on the internet, you can find lists of other people’s favourites.

I have an IPod Classic because the screen is easier to see. It comes with a little stand that you can rest your IPod on to charge it and to download tunes from your computer. Once you connect your IPod to ITunes, it automatically synchronizes and downloads any music you’ve bought or were given by your kids (ITunes has a music “library” that you can store your tunes in.)


Aug 2/2011

Got 5 minutes? Get some micro-exercise.


Aug 5/2011

The Benefits of Going to the Top

Indoor centres have made climbing more accessible and popular, for rehabilitation as well as recreation:

Sept 8/2011

“Exercise- whatever moves.
  Exercise your arms and legs.
  Exercise your mind.  Exercise
  your senses, your imagination,
  your patience, your rights.
  Move on.”

Getting Older, Getting Wiser, Elf-help books/2000

Oct 24/2011

Fitness and aging: Use or Lose It


Dec. 2/2011

Good news for those of who have osteoarthritis pain and want to exercise.


Jan 17/2012

Exercise as Mental Health Treatment


Feb 10/2012

Forget About Weight, Get On The Move To Save Your Life


Feb 14/2012

Weight Isn’t the Absolute Indicator Of Health


Feb  14/2012

Longevity, Exercise Linked

Feb 15/2012

Inactivity greater risk then obesity, study finds


March 9/2012

Regular Exercise Won’t Help Chair Potatoes


April 10/2012

Herbal stress relief? Try a walk instead


Why Exercise is Soooo Good For You:

This article doesn't rate walking as highly as running to benefit from those good feelings, but that is maybe because people don't " work" as hard when they walk. However any exercise is better than none at all. Doctors advise exercising until you bring up a sweat, but remember to exercise safely. It takes a lot of time and effort to become fit.Try it you'll like it!

Stretches for Walkers

Static Stretches

Dynamic Mobility Stretches

July 30, 2012

How Do I motivate myself to exercise?

                   Can You Teach Old Dogs New Tricks?

More Women Should Reap the Benefits Of Cardiac Rehab

Anne McRae does resistance training under the watchful eyes of Toronto Rehab's Susan Marzolini and Dr. Paul Oh.Photo by Jim Atkinson/MediMedia Group



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