Stroke Education Series — Exercise is Medicine

Stroke Education Series -- Exercise is Medicine

Exercise is Medicine: Secondary Stroke Prevention


  • FITT Principle
    • Frequency: how often should you exercise? 
      • 3-5 times a week, with activity most days per week
      • Reduce sedentary (low activity) time
        • It’s not healthy for you! Try standing, walking short distances to start
    • Intensity: how hard should I work when I exercise?
      • 40-75% VO2 peak
      • Heart rate needs to be monitored if you’re on beta blockers
    • Time: how much time should I spend exercising?
      • 20-60 minutes is what’s recommended, either all together or broken up during the day (10 minute sessions)
    • Type: what is the best type of exercise for me to do?
      • Aerobic exercise 
        • Weight lifting, yoga, Tai chi
        • Blood vessels, heart, and other organs get additional benefit
  • Of the four components, intensity is the hardest to determine
    • It requires individualization
      • Depends on person’s health
        • Heart rate may be impacted by medications taken (i.e., beta blockers)
      • Talk test
        • If you can continue to talk and/or sing, you’re at a mild pace
        • If you can talk, but can’t sing, you’re at a more moderate pace
        • If you can’t talk or if it’s harder to talk, you’re at the most intense pace for you
  • Type of exercise is important to discuss as well
    • There should be a goal in mind for what you want to achieve for your exercise
    • You need to be able to move your body! Don’t become sedentary
    • There are different levels of exercise that can be fitted to an individual’s plan (can be done sitting or standing, mild or intense, etc.)

Exercise Prescription Post Stroke

  • Muscle strengthening
    • Major muscle groups 
  • Frequency: 2-3 days a week
  • Intensity: 3 sets, 10-15 reps
    • Can lower as needed 
    • Anything is better than nothing
    • Mode: weight machine, free weights, theraband

Benefits of exercise

  • Improves mood, cognition, and depressive symptoms
    • Makes you feel better about yourself
    • You can be a part of a community
  • Improves strength and upper extremity function
  • Improves vascular health and aerobic fitness
    • Can measure how healthy blood vessels are 
  • Increased walking endurance


  • Exercise that increases heart rate= good for heart and brain health
  • You should do exercises YOU are willing to do 
  • Physical activity
  • Sit less often during the day