Ask anyone about the benefits of exercise, and they’ll give you a list a mile long. Exercise is vital for weight control, appetite regulation, reduction of cardiovascular disease, improvement of insulin sensitivity and glucose control, enhancement of your mood and emotional states, regulation of your hormones, and the list goes on.
According to a study published in the medical journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, there’s a new benefit for the list: stroke recovery. Strokes, the death of brain cells as a result of insufficient oxygen supply usually caused by a clot, can lead to speech problems, muscular paralysis, memory loss, and many other side effects. The severity is affected by the parts of the brain that are damaged, as well as the amount of tissue damaged. The brain literally has to reorganize itself in order to make up for the parts that were damaged by the lack of blood flow.
Researchers wanting to study how exercise can aid in stroke recovery used lab mice as their subjects. They subjected the mice to tests to analyze their brain plasticity, which decreases with age. The higher the brain plasticity, the higher the chance a stroke victim can recover as their brain reorganizes itself.
The study showed that mice with free access to a running wheel had higher post-stroke brain plasticity than mice that didn’t. The exercise essentially preserved the juvenile-ness of their brain, which helped to reduce the negative side effects of the stroke.
But the results didn’t stop at just prevention—the mice who exercised after a stroke improved significantly. In fact, even if they hadn’t done any exercise prior to their stroke, regular exercise after their stroke led to equally positive recovery.
What a wondrous discovery. Not only can exercise help to prevent strokes by reducing the risk of blood clots and improving cardiovascular function but now it turns out, it can aid in stroke recovery. Doing exercise after a stroke can help to increase brain plasticity, and doing regular exercise can be a good preventive measure to prevent serious brain damage as a result of the stroke. It’s never too late to start exercising.
1. Kalogeraki E, Pielecka-Fortuna J, Hüppe JM and Löwel S. “Physical Exercise Preserves Adult Visual Plasticity in Mice and Restores it after a Stroke in the Somatosensory Cortex.” Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, December 12, 2016, DOI: 10.3389/fnagi.2016.00212/.