Having a daily routine helps us create habits to meet our goals. After a stroke, there is a lot of information and recommendations that may feel overwhelming. Organizing your day in a way that works for you will help you stay focused on your post stroke rehabilitation and getting back to the things that matter most.
We'll discuss 6 things to work into your day that have been shown to assist in your stroke recovery and rehabilitation, and show you how to begin to make them habit. Download our rehab calendar below.
- Aerobic exercise
- Strength training
- Intensive Repetitions
- Functional Goal Training
1. AEROBIC EXERCISE
It is common for people who have had a stroke to become deconditioned. They may have limited movement and may struggle with depression. Aerobic exercise is important for stroke because it improves the function of the heart and lungs, which can reduce the risk of heart disease and future strokes.
Aerobic exercise has also been shown to boost mood and improve cognition in people post stroke, specifically information processing and motor learning tasks.
The American Heart Association recommends people with stroke participate in aerobic exercise 20-60 minutes, 3-5 days a week. The recommended method is treadmill training, if able.
If you’re unable to safely use a treadmill or walk outside, there are several other ways to get the heart pumping and increase the rate of breathing, which are the key ingredients in aerobic exercise. A recumbent bicycle, hand bicycle, or rowing machine are a few options. You might also try a punching bag or chair aerobics.
2. STRENGTH TRAINING
Strength training is also an important piece of exercise to incorporate into your daily post stroke routine. Strength training focused on high repetitions prevents muscle atrophy, and actually improves the quality of muscle fibers and overall functional capacity.
Guidelines for strength training are 2-3 times a week. Strength training should take about 30 minutes. Recommendations for which muscles to train should be done in collaboration with your physician and/or your physical or occupational therapist. Typically, you want to address major muscle groups and complete 2-3 sets of 10-20 repetitions. You want to exercise your muscles to the point of fatigue.
The brain requires sleep to detoxify proteins that are built up during waking hours. It also helps solidify working memory. For people recovering from stroke and in the process of building new neural connections, sleep is essential for recovery.
Sleep disorders are common after stroke and should be addressed with your physician to ensure maximum recovery, but making sleep a priority by putting it into your schedule is one step in the right direction.
You might be tired of hearing about the benefits of meditation, but it has been specifically studied in people with stroke and has been shown to improve balance, fatigue, depression, and disability. 20 minutes of daily meditation is the recommended dosage, but if you’re new to meditation, aim for 5 minutes a day using a meditation app and increase as you feel the benefits.
5. INTENSIVE REPETITIONS
Intensive repetitions (moving your muscles and joints over, and over, and over again) is the best way to create neuroplasticity and create new neural pathways to the muscles that were affected by the stroke.
The Neofect suite of rehabilitation tools help make intensive repetitions motivating and fun. It gives you both visual and auditory feedback.
6. FUNCTIONAL GOAL TRAINING
Intensive repetition of movement is only one piece of the picture. You also need to practice a functional goal over and over to retrain your brain how to complete a task.
Choose one long-term goal. Write it on a sticky note and place it on the mirror. Add it to your daily schedule and commit to practicing it everyday. Studies have shown that quality of life increases with improvements in function over improved motor control. One of the best ways to work on your skills is to incorporate it into the things you already have to do during the day.
CREATING A ROUTINE
Does it all sound overwhelming? Take a deep breath and think about it one step at a time. Create a digital or physical calendar and schedule time to complete the above activities. You can print out a sample calendar and place it in a plastic sheet protector. Check off your accomplishments for the week with a dry erase marker, and wipe it clean the next week. Prioritize what’s important to you to start with. You’ve got this!
For more support and encouragement, join our Neofect support group on Facebook!
Download your blank calendar here.
To learn more about the Neofect line of smart rehabilitation tools, which include support from occupational therapists to maximize your rehabilitation, please call (866) 534-4989 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Boyne, P., Billinger, S., MacKay-Lyons, M., Barney, B., Khoury, J., & Dunning, K. (2017). Aerobic Exercise Prescription in Stroke Rehabilitation: A Web-Based Survey of US Physical Therapists. Journal of neurologic physical therapy : JNPT, 41(2), 119–128. doi:10.1097/NPT.0000000000000177
Billinger, S. A., Coughenour, E., Mackay-Lyons, M. J., & Ivey, F. M. (2012). Reduced cardiorespiratory fitness after stroke: biological consequences and exercise-induced adaptations. Stroke research and treatment, 2012, 959120. doi:10.1155/2012/959120
Bruno Bavaresco Gambassi, Hélio José Coelho-Junior, Paulo Adriano Schwingel, et al., “Resistance Training and Stroke: A Critical Analysis of Different Training Programs,” Stroke Research and Treatment, vol. 2017, Article ID 4830265, 11 pages, 2017.
Underwood, E (2013) Sleep: The Brain’s Housekeeper? Science 18 Oct 2013: Vol. 342, Issue 6156, pp. 301. DOI: 10.1126/science.342.6156.301
Vennu, Vishal & Kachanathu, Shaji & , PriyankaBhatia & Nuhmani, Shibili. (2013). Efficacy of meditation with conventional physiotherapy management on sub-acute stroke patients. Scholarly Journal of Medicine. 3. 48-52.
Kelly, Kristina M; Borstad, Alexandra L; Kline, David; Gauthier, Lynne V; National Library of Medicine.Improved quality of life following constraint-induced movement therapy is associated with gains in arm use, but not motor improvement. Topics in stroke rehabilitation Vol. 25, Iss. 7, (October 2018): 467-474. DOI:10.1080/10749357.2018.1481605
Additional information on Post Stroke Routines:
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke - Post Stroke Rehabilitation Fact Sheet
American Stroke Association - Life After Stroke
Healthtalk.org - Stroke Recovery
All content provided on this blog is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately. Reliance on any information provided by the Neofect website is solely at your own risk.
- Clarice Torrey, OTR/LClarice is an occupational therapist, product designer, and health writer based out of San Francisco, CA. Clarice works for RAD Camp as a Community and Product Manager.