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Exercising to Prevent a Stroke

Topic Overview

Exercise helps lower high blood pressure, which is an important risk factor for stroke. Exercise can help you control other things that put you at risk, such as obesity, high cholesterol and diabetes.

It is important to exercise regularly. Do activities that raise your heart rate. Try to do at least 2½ hours a week of moderate exercise. One way to do this is to be active 30 minutes a day, at least 5 days a week. It's fine to be active in blocks of 10 minutes or more throughout your day and week. Start slowly and gradually build up your exercise program.

If you have already had a stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA) and you can still do physical activity, doctors recommend ½ to 1½ hours a week of moderate exercise. One way to do this is to be active 30 minutes a day, 1 to 3 days a week.

Moderate activity is safe for most people, but it's always a good idea to talk with your doctor before you start an exercise program. You can use your target heart rate to figure out how hard to exercise. Use this Interactive Tool: What Is Your Target Heart Rate?

Low-intensity exercise, if done daily, also can have some long-term health benefits and lower the risk for heart problems that may lead to stroke. Low-intensity exercises have a lower risk of injury and are recommended for people with other health problems. Some low-intensity activities are:

  • Walking.
  • Gardening and other yard work.
  • Housework.
  • Dancing.

For more information about making a personal fitness plan, see the topic Fitness: Getting and Staying Active.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Karin M. Lindholm, DO - Neurology
Last Revised January 3, 2013

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