Practical tips for dealing with some of the effects of a stroke if you want to be more active.
A stroke can affect emotional wellbeing and lead to a loss of confidence. Many people experience low mood and anxiety after a stroke, and these can make it harder to think about getting moving. But being active is known to be great for emotional wellbeing.
It can reduce feelings of stress and anxiety, and improve low mood. So even if you feel low, it’s worth having a go at a new activity to see what a difference it can make.
If your eyes are very sensitive to light, try sunglasses or a baseball cap to shade your eyes. If you have low vision or perceptual problems, good indoor lighting and an uncluttered space can help. If you're taking part in an organised activity, the instructor can support you by giving extra verbal descriptions and pointing out obstacles. You might be able to do outdoor activities like walking or running alongside a friend.
If you're worried about leaking urine (wee) or faeces (poo) while you’re moving around, there are some practical steps you can take. Use the toilet just before you start. Drink plenty of water, and use pads if you need to.
Some kinds of exercise are more likely to cause leaks, such as high impact sports like netball and running. This can happen even for people who don’t normally have incontinence. Lower-impact activities include walking, chair-based exercises, swimming and cycling.
Don’t avoid activities you enjoy, but do go prepared. Take a change of clothes, and washing kit. You can wear dark clothes to hide small leaks.
Get some more help and advice: your pharmacist can advise on products you can use, and a GP can give advice or refer you to a specialist.
Weakness or paralysis down one side
A stroke can lead to physical problems like weakness or paralysis in arms and legs. The kind of activities you can do will depend on your abilities and interests.
Do things at your own pace, using smaller movements you can manage. Focus on the quality of movement rather than how much you can do. Relax or stretch if you need to. A therapist can give you individual advice about activities to try.
Many activities can be adapted to suit your needs so you can take part. It's worth doing research to see what's available in your local area.
You might feel too tired to be active, but regular exercise can help give you more energy. It can also help you to sleep better. Doing too much, too soon can make fatigue worse, so you need to start slowly and find out what works for you. Overall energy levels should improve, but you might need to build in time for some extra rests after activity.
I’m worried that…
I might have another stroke
Sometimes people worry that being active could cause another stroke. But the opposite is true! Moving and being active is a great way to stay healthy and avoid another stroke. So unless your doctor tells you otherwise, moving and being active is safe, and it could make all the difference to your health and wellbeing.
I might hurt myself
As long as you do things that you're capable of, you can move and be more active. Don’t avoid being active because you’re worried. If you're not sure how to do something, it’s a good idea to get help from a professional like a therapist or trained exercise coach.
Activity will make my blood pressure rise
Being more active can help you to reduce your blood pressure and avoid another stroke. You might also need medication.
However, if you have very high blood pressure you should speak to your doctor before starting to be more active, to make sure it’s safe for you.
I have several health problems
If you have a number of health problems like diabetes and atrial fibrillation, and you’re not sure what level of activity you can do, speak to your GP or stroke nurse.