Aerobic exercise after stroke

What is aerobic exercise?

What is aerobic exercise?
  • Exercise that is performed for longer periods of time, causing the heart rate to increase and improve blood circulation to the heart and muscles
  • A consistent aerobic activity program can:
    • Improve strength, balance, walking, and performing daily activities
    • Boost energy levels
    • Improve function of your affected limb(s)
    • Improve fitness and heart health
    • Lower blood pressure
    • Improve mood and quality of life

Who is aerobic exercise appropriate for?
Anyone! All individuals should be screened by their stroke team for their ability to undergo aerobic activity as early as possible after a stroke or TIA as soon as they are medically stable.

  • Take a screening assessment to determine if you are a candidate for aerobic training
  • The assessment will spell out the potential benefits for you, set goals, flag medical conditions that require special consideration and specify exercises that you should and shouldn’t do
  • If the assessment doesn’t include a stress test, stay with moderate intensity activities in the program. Moderate intensity exercises are “fairly light” to a maximum of “somewhat hard” exertion – meaning you are able to talk comfortably with little effort while doing the exercise
  • Aerobic activity can be introduced at any point during your recovery journey, and can continue for many years later!

What are the special considerations for following an aerobic activity program after a stroke?

  • The program should be designed by rehabilitation specialists or physiotherapists
  • The level of supervision in the program is based on your health condition:
    • high-risk people need to be closely supervised
    • low-risk people who have the ability to exercise safely and effectively may need less supervision
  • Exercise in short periods with rests in between and gradually increase your activity level
  • Supervision may be provided by a qualified health-care professional or an exercise instructor who has been trained by a health-care professional. The health professional should monitor progress and recommend changes to the program as you progress

Where can I find an aerobic exercise program?
This brochure Aerobic Exercise After Stroke contains a chart of sample aerobic programs on page 11. The information on this webpage – published by the Heart and Stroke Foundation Canadian Partnership for Stroke Recovery – has been adapted from the brochure.


What is the recipe for success?

  • The exercises are appropriate for your goals
  • Frequency, intensity and time are challenging enough for you to experience fitness gains
  • You will receive proper supervision, guidance and assessment at the beginning of the program, but you will ultimately become more independent as you progress
  • You will be reassessed periodically to help you progress to the next stage
  • Exercise is incorporated regularly into your daily routine as part of a healthy lifestyle

Related Information