Sports Medicine

, Volume 21, Issue 5, pp 337–346

Benefits of Aerobic Exercise After Stroke

  • Kathleen Potempa
  • Lynne T. Braun
  • Tyler Tinknell
  • Judith Popovich
Review Article


The debilitating loss of function after a stroke has both primary and secondary effects on sensorimotor function. Primary effects include paresis, paralysis, spasticity, and sensory-perceptual dysfunction due to upper motor neuron damage. Secondary effects, contractures and disuse muscle atrophy, are also debilitating. This paper presents theoretical and empirical benefits of aerobic exercise after stroke, issues relevant to measuring peak capacity, exercise training protocols, and the clinical use of aerobic exercise in this patient population. A stroke, and resulting hemiparesis, produces physiological changes in muscle fibres and muscle metabolism during exercise. These changes, along with comorbid cardiovascular disease, must be considered when exercising stroke patients. While few studies have measured peak exercise capacity in hemiparetic populations, it has been consistently observed in these studies that stroke patients have a lower functional capacity than healthy populations. Hemiparetic patients have low peak exercise responses probably due to a reduced number of motor units available for recruitment during dynamic exercise, the reduced oxidative capacity of paretic muscle, and decreased overall endurance. Consequently, traditional methods to predict aerobic capacity are not appropriate for use with stroke patients. Endurance exercise training is increasingly recognised as an important component in rehabilitation. An average improvement in maximal oxygen consumption (V̇O2max) of 13.3% in stroke patients who participated in a 10-week aerobic exercise training programme has been reported compared with controls. This study underscored the potential benefits of aerobic exercise training in stroke patients. In this paper, advantages and disadvantages of exercise modalities are discussed in relation to stroke patients. Recommendations are presented to maximise physical performance and minimise potential cardiac risks during exercise.


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Copyright information

© Adis International Limited 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kathleen Potempa
    • 1
  • Lynne T. Braun
    • 1
    • 2
  • Tyler Tinknell
    • 1
  • Judith Popovich
    • 1
  1. 1.The Stroke Rehabilitation Research ProgramUniversity of Illinois at Chicago (M/C 802)ChicagoUSA
  2. 2.Department of Medical NursingRush Presbyterian St Lukes Medical CenterChicagoUSA

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