Exercise training for cardiometabolic adaptation after stroke

J Cardiopulm Rehabil Prev. 2008 Jan-Feb;28(1):2-11. doi: 10.1097/01.HCR.0000311501.57022.a8.


Patients with stroke are severely deconditioned, leading to metabolic abnormalities that significantly increase risk for myocardial infarction and recurrent stroke. This review characterizes the nature of the metabolic decline, the underlying causes, and the potential for progressive aerobic exercise to address metabolic impairment following disabling stroke. Although exercise training has previously been shown to improve peak aerobic capacity and sensorimotor function after stroke, establishing safe and effective exercise programs in this population presents unique challenges stemming from neurological deficit complexities and comorbid conditions. Thus, recommendations for application to practice are provided that include proper preexercise evaluation, guidelines for symptom-limited maximal effort exercise testing, as well as evidence-based suggestions for initiation and progression of an exercise program. Implementing regular, progressive exercise therapy is critical on the basis of the devastating impact of physical inactivity on overall metabolic heath. Prevalence of impaired or diabetic glucose metabolism may be as high as 80% in chronic stroke, predicting 2- and 3-fold increased risk for recurrent stroke, respectively. Tragically, nearly one third of patients with stroke experience recurrent stroke within 5 years, and comorbid cardiovascular conditions represent the leading cause of death in this population. Recent evidence showing the positive impact of exercise training on hyperinsulinemia and glucose tolerance in survivors of stroke is presented, given the central importance of these factors to overall cardiovascular risk. On the basis of these and other findings, structured exercise programs should be considered for all survivors of stroke.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / metabolism
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control
  • Exercise / physiology
  • Exercise Therapy*
  • Gait Disorders, Neurologic / rehabilitation
  • Humans
  • Muscle, Skeletal / pathology
  • Physical Fitness
  • Risk Factors
  • Stroke / metabolism
  • Stroke / physiopathology
  • Stroke Rehabilitation*


  • Blood Glucose