Clinical Evidence of Exercise Benefits for Stroke

Adv Exp Med Biol. 2017;1000:131-151. doi: 10.1007/978-981-10-4304-8_9.


Even though stroke is the third, not the first, most common cause of disability-adjusted life years in developed countries, it is one of the most expensive to treat. Part of the expense is due to secondary problems in the post-stroke period including: cognition, memory, attention span, pain, sensation loss, psychological issues, and problems with mobility and balance. Research has identified that exercise has both positive physical and psychosocial effects for post-stroke patients. Therefore, this scientific statement provides an overview on exercise rehabilitation for post-stroke patients.We will use systematic literature reviews, clinical and epidemiology reports, published morbidity and mortality studies, clinical and public health guidelines, patient files, and authoritative statements to support this overview.Evidence clearly supports the use of various kinds of exercise training (e.g., aerobic, strength, flexibility, neuromuscular, and traditional Chinese exercise) for stroke survivors. Aerobic exercise, the main form of cardiac rehabilitation, may play an important role in improving aerobic fitness, cardiovascular fitness, cognitive abilities, walking speed and endurance, balance, quality of life, mobility, and other health outcomes among stroke patients. Strength exercise, included in national stroke guidelines and recommended for general health promotion for stroke survivors, can lead to improvements in functionality, psychosocial aspects, and quality of life for post-stroke patients. Flexibility exercises can relieve muscle spasticity problems, improve motor function, range of motion, and prevent contractures. Stretching exercises can also prevent joint contractures, muscle shortening, decrease spasticity, reduce joint stiffness and improve a post-stroke patient's overall function. Neuromuscular exercises can improve activities of daily living (ADL) through coordination and balance activities. Traditional Chinese exercises are used to improve walking and balance ability as well as increase muscle strength, which is important for post-stroke patients.The present evidence strongly supports the power of exercise for post-stroke patients, which in this study combined aerobic exercises, strength training, flexibility exercises, neuromuscular exercises, and traditional Chinese exercises. This research can encourage post-stroke survivors to consider the importance of exercise in the rehabilitation process.

Keywords: Clinical evidence; Exercise; Stroke.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Exercise Therapy / methods*
  • Humans
  • Muscle Strength / physiology
  • Quality of Life
  • Stroke / physiopathology*
  • Stroke Rehabilitation / methods*
  • Walking / physiology