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Exercise & Stroke

Stroke is one of the most common conditions we see at NextStep. This is likely due to the profound benefits of exercise post-stroke but also the common occurrence of strokes today – every 45-minutes, someone in New Zealand experiences a stroke.

Exercise as a mode to improve function after stroke (both acutely and chronically) is well researched. Exercise has been shown as crucial in re-learning movement patterns and furthermore, has added benefits in regard to protecting your mental health and resilience throughout the recovery process. We know it can get frustrating!

What happens to your movement when you have a stroke?

The brain is the control center for all movement. Even to lift a finger, a series of complex neurological processes, involving cells, neural pathways and muscular reactions take place.

When a stroke occurs, these cells are damaged and pathways are disrupted, causing a multitude of movement difficulties. Like roads damaged in a natural disaster, “traffic”, or neural messages lose efficiency or are no longer able to get where they need to go. What makes it even more complex is that every stroke is different, and the movements/regions affected will depend on what part of the brain the stroke affected.

How does exercise help?

Neuroplasticity is the key word in regard to exercise and stroke rehabilitation. Neuroplasticity is the ability of the neural networks in the brain to change via growth and re-organization. I.e., the ability to build new roads and “re-route” to re-learn various functions. Through specific exercises, we encourage this rebuilding process.

Aside from directly improving function post-stoke, exercise is also crucial in maintaining healthy cardiovascular function for example managing blood pressure and arterial health, to help in preventing another stroke.

Our stroke recovery programs always involve a mixture of neuromuscular training and cardiovascular exercise – specific to you. We would love to be on your rehab team!

Helpful tips:

From a couple of the team!

- Get involved with others who have been through or are going through stroke rehab. It’s a great opportunity to share stories and stay mindful that you are not alone on your journey (Tess).

- Make sure to manage your fatigue. Getting plenty of sleep and prioritizing recovery will ensure your body can effectively re-build those muscles and pathways (Brennan).

- They usually say more is less, but in the case of your affected limb, more is more! Use it as much as you can day to day J (Aaron)



Some advice from Bindy


Bindy is a long-term member of NextStep; he's been coming along since his first stroke 8 years ago.


He’s a great example of how far exercise paired with perseverance can take you post-stroke. We asked Bindy for some quick, first hand advice around exercise and stroke.


What has your stroke taught you?

Most obviously, it has taught me how much we take our bodies (and brains!) for granted on a daily basis. I’ve learnt just how amazing and complex the body/brain connection is; we use it for literally everything.


What role has exercise played in your recovery?

Exercise has been huge in my recovery. Being an ex-farmer, activity never scared me and I was thankful to have the gym as a safe space to be active. It also helps with routine; the gym became a normal part of routine. I think that’s key – build it into your routine.


What is one piece of rehab advice you’d give someone who has had a stroke?

You have to want to get better. Having a good attitude and staying positive on the journey is the most important part in recovering.


It goes without saying but we would love the opportunity to help with your stroke rehab in any way we can. Come in today to chat to us about it!


- The team a NextStep

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