Did you know that strokes are the third leading cause of death in the USA, and did you know that having a stroke is the leading cause of adult disability worldwide? On average, more than 700,000 individuals in the USA suffer a stroke every year.
While these statistics are frightening, having a stroke doesn’t always mean you can’t live your life as you did before.
Depending on its severity, many people can regain both the functional and cognitive skills they had before suffering a stroke. Studies have proven that regular exercise drastically reduces the likelihood of having a stroke, in addition to other medical problems.
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What Is a Stroke?
A stroke occurs when a blood clot cuts off blood flow to the brain or if a blood vessel causes a brain bleed. In both situations, the brain quickly begins to die from lack of oxygen. And depending on which part of the brain was affected, a stroke can be mild or severe.
In mild cases, there may be slight facial droop or slurring of speech. In severe strokes, sufferers may lose the ability to speak, walk, show emotion, and even breathe unassisted. While some people do recover fully, many are left with a remaining disability. An individualized stroke-recovery program can improve physical fitness levels, independent function, and quality of life.
Qualifications of a Personal Trainer
A personal trainer is defined as a fitness professional who creates and takes an individualized approach to teaching physical fitness. A personal trainer also assesses their client’s level of physical fitness and then develops a workout plan specifically for that individual’s needs. A personal trainer enhances the components of fitness for the general population, which include:
- Muscular strength
- Muscular endurance
- Body composition
In order to work in a gym or other type of fitness studio, a personal trainer must have a high school diploma, appropriate nationally recognized certification, and be CPR-certified. To work with stroke victims, a trainer also needs a background in anatomy, physiology, neurology, and post-stroke rehabilitation.
With recent changes in the healthcare system, it’s recommended that personal trainers working with stroke victims possess a degree in allied health with a minimum of 600 hours of practical experience. Since many stroke survivors have already completed physical therapy, they need a supervised fitness regimen to maintain the progress they made in rehab.
The Rehabilitative Process
After a stroke, many patients need to relearn how to perform activities of daily living through speech, cognitive, and physical therapy. The goal of working with a personal trainer is to increase the level of independent function the patient has and to improve coordination and balance.
Strength training exercises should focus on functional movements. When working with stroke victims, resistance bands, stability balls, and ankle weights are challenging yet effective means of any strengthening program.
Those with neurological impairments may have difficulty with positioning, so some of the weight-training positions may need modification. For instance, someone who has difficulty maintaining their balance should perform exercises one side at a time with assistive devices and close supervision.
Regardless of stroke severity, stretching is important for every victim. All of the major muscle groups should be stretched to eliminate the likelihood of retraction. Static stretching involves slow lengthening of the muscle just to the point of slight discomfort.
To perform efficient body movement, patients must maintain a reasonable degree of flexibility. Gaining and maintaining flexibility improves function, reduces muscle tension, and reduces the chance of muscle injury.
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Aerobic exercise can decrease the incidence of hypertension, reduce overall body fat, and lower cholesterol. Depending on the person’s ability, different modalities for cardiovascular training can be implemented, which include:
- Exercise bike
- Ergometer for the upper body
- NuStep device
For those with minimal motor impairment who can ambulate with or without an assistive device, slow walking on a treadmill may be appropriate. Structured workout plans can maximize gait efficiency. Eventually, even individuals with limited speed may develop their exercise capacity by maintaining a slow speed and increasing the slope of the treadmill.
For those who have compromised balance and gait issues, a stationary bike is usually the appropriate choice for aerobic conditioning. Cycling provides lower body strengthening and conditioning, which increases endurance and stamina.
Changes in the balance, vision, and overall muscle tone can directly impact posture. It’s important to work on posture-correcting techniques with an emphasis on head and neck extension. Personal trainers should tailor exercise plans to include postural exercises.
Stroke Recovery Starts With Small Steps
Working with a personal trainer for stroke rehabilitation provides several benefits. However, stroke survivors must follow the proper protocol that strictly adheres to safety guidelines and their specific needs. By doing so, patients derive many benefits from personal training while minimizing the risk of injury.
As a personal trainer, you need to be versatile to meet the needs of your clients. Furthermore, you must hold the appropriate advanced certifications and experience to work with special-needs clients.
An exercise regimen is designed to improve the patient’s range of motion, strength, balance, and coordination. With proper management, exercise is the key to long-term management of any deficits that remain after having a stroke.
Frequently Asked Questions About Strokes
What is a stroke?
A stroke occurs when a blood clot cuts off blood flow to the brain or if a blood vessel causes a brain bleed.
What are the symptoms of a stroke?
Symptoms of stroke include numbness or weakness (usually on one side of the body); trouble speaking and/or confusion; trouble seeing; trouble walking; sudden headache.
What do I do if I see someone having a stroke?
Call 9-1-1 immediately.
What are the risk factors for stroke?
Things that can increase the chances of having a stroke include having high blood pressure and/or high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, smoking, or a family history of stroke.
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