Stroke Prevention: Are You Exercising Enough?

Stroke happens either when the blood supply to part of your brain is cut off because of a blood clot, or because a brain artery ruptures and leads to a haemorrhage. Stroke is a leading cause of death and disability worldwide, but most strokes can be prevented by addressing a small number of key risk factors.

1 million strokes a year are linked to physical inactivity, by getting the recommended amount of exercise each week you will reduce your risk of having a stroke.

How Does Exercise Reduce Stroke Risk?

Just 30 minutes of exercise five times a week can reduce your risk of stroke by 25%.

Exercise plays an important role in reducing several stroke risk factors including hypertension, diabetes, cholesterol, depression and stress. Be getting regular exercise you can take action on a number of stroke risk factors.

How Much Exercise Do I Need?

You should be as active as you possibly can in your daily life – small everyday activities like walking instead of taking the car, taking the stairs instead of elevator, gardening and housework will help you to stay healthy and reduce your stroke risk.

In addition to keeping generally active, it is recommended that we all aim for at least two and a half hours a week of moderate to vigorous exercise each week. You can divide this up however you like, but a good way to achieve this target is to be active 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. If you find it hard to schedule half an hour a day, or find it hard to exercise for 30 minutes in one session, it’s OK to break this down into blocks of 10 minutes or more throughout your day and work up over time. 

If I Am Unfit Isn’t There A Risk That Exercise Could Cause A Stroke? 

It is very unlikely that exercising at the recommended levels will cause a stroke. However, if you haven’t been active for some time. have a condition that increases your risk of stroke or are on medication you should speak to a health professional. 

Should I Exercise If I Have Already Had A Stroke?

If you are a stroke survivor, regular exercise can reduce your risk of having another stroke, your risk of developing dementia, improve your recovery, help with fatigue and improve your general well-being. Even if your mobility is affected by stroke, there is likely to be some kind of exercise that works for you. A physiotherapist or occupational therapist should be able to help you find exercise that works for you.

1 in 4 people are at risk of stroke in their lifetime, but by taking simple steps almost all strokes can be prevented. For more information on stroke risks and prevention visit

Strength Training for All Ages

Whether it’s lifting weights in the gym, completing a bodyweight challenge at the park, or using any number of the tools available, the inclusion of activity to increase muscle strength and composition is important for your long term health and wellness.

Strength training is about ensuring you have a functioning body that can do what you need it to, without risk of injury or fatigue.

All movement has benefits for health and wellness, but strength training comes with added benefits including:

  • Increased muscle mass and reduction in the speed of muscle loss as we age
  • Increased bone strength
  • Better stability and balance
  • Ease of completing every day activities
  • Lowered blood pressure

Research has indicated that a day spent seated cannot be undone by a single workout. But researchers at the Glasgow University found that people with low grip strength or low fitness levels had faced twice the risk when engaged in long periods of sedentary activities such as watching TV, than on participants who had the highest levels of fitness and grip strength. Risks include a number of conditions including cancer, and heart disease. The researchers believe that increasing strength and fitness may somewhat offset the adverse health consequences of spending a large proportion of leisure time sitting down and watching a screen.

Strength training is not just about lifting weights, although that is an excellent option. A great example of integrating exercise to strengthen the cardiovascular system in conjunction with strength training is High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). HIIT involves alternating between higher intensity bursts of exercise, with time to rest in between activities, and this high intensity exercise often includes strength training exercises.

The benefits of strength training are not just proven for those who remain active and injury free; there is increasing understanding that exercise, including strength training, can benefit a range of specific health conditions, especially those that are prevalent in older adults such as arthritis, and Parkinson’s disease.

Traditionally older adults have been recommended to do light aerobic work to improve heart health and balance to decrease the chance of falls. While these two components are still regarded as important, there is also a benefit in participating in strength training which involves using resistance while exercising. This can be exercises with weights, but there are plenty of other options too.

Strength training is not ‘one size fits all’ and as with any physical activity, has some risks. However, by working with an appropriately qualified and registered exercise professional, the exercise and activity can be customised to your specific needs, exercise and medical history, thus minimising risk and maximising results.

It’s never too late to get started into strength training, so regardless of your age, today is a great day to gets started!


Exercise For Your Heart

It can be tough for those who are active to watch family and friends who are suffering from the ill effects of inactivity. Approximately 33% of deaths annually are due to heart disease. This article has some easy information for those wanting to get someone active.

Cardiovascular disease (including heart, stroke and blood vessel disease) is still the leading cause of death in New Zealand, accounting for 33% of deaths annually.

Every 90 minutes a New Zealander dies from heart disease, with 172,000 New Zealanders currently living with heart disease and are limited by its impacts.

To onlookers, it can seem straightforward to make changes with the threat of disease or early death, but for many of the New Zealanders who are inactive or at risk of heart disease due to insufficient exercise, or unhealthy food choices, making the change to a healthier lifestyle can often be in the too hard basket.

The statistics are alarming but are often not enough of a reason for an individual to take the first step to change habits, even if health issues are starting to arise.

That’s where friends and family come in by offering support and encouragement for someone who needs the motivation to make changes; changes that may save their life.

A good place to start is with getting active, as being physically active can reduce the risk of getting heart disease by 50%. There are also important extra benefits through eating a healthy diet and not smoking. The benefits are not just for those wanting to prevent heart disease, as exercise can also lower blood pressure, and assist with reducing weight, which are both risk factors for heart disease.

A good way to support someone to get moving is by offering the support and encouragement they need. This could be offering to exercise with them, educating them about how easy it can be, and that they are able to work at their own pace. Exercising with them could be something as simple as a walk or a stretching session to begin, or you could offer to take them along to your gym. Positivity works better at motivating people, so focus on achievements rather than stumbles.

Encourage them to talk to or get information from someone who can give them good advice, either from a reputable online resource or from a qualified expert. The first visit with an expert need not involved any actual exercise. Many exercise professionals will offer an introductory meeting to find out how it all works.

While images of fit looking people doing great things can be motivational for regular exercisers, for someone new these same images can be quite intimidating. The reality is that while the media promotes unrealistic body types, a look around a gym or exercise facility these days shows just how diverse exercisers are when it comes to age, size, fitness levels and health status.

It’s worth knowing that every minute of exercise counts, with benefits increasing with the time spent. The general recommendation is that 30 minutes a day, most days is enough to have a significant health impact. And more good news, the 30 minutes does not need to be completed in one session.

Where to access useful resources for someone new to exercise:

  • REPs registered exercise professionals have access to a range of Tell Me More brochures packed full of information for New Zealanders starting exercise suitable for those new to exercise.
  • The Heart Foundation of NZ is a great resource for heart friendly advice:

Tips to Healthy Ageing

Exercising regularly has significant life improving and lengthening benefit at any age, from early childhood through to later years.

While there are natural parts of the ageing process that cannot be prevented, we are seeing more research indicating that many areas of ageing can be reduced or delayed with regular physical activity. As adults continue to live longer and remain more active, the need for exercise to improve health and activity becomes more important, with people, quite rightly, not willing to give up the freedom that goes along with an active life.

Exercising in older age is not just a matter of reversing the ageing process, but more about maintaining a level of health and fitness levels that is not seen population wide. The effects of inactivity are well known. The reduction in everyday function and the likelihood of lifestyle diseases accelerates over time. While the ageing process accounts for some of this decline, much of it can be attributed to long term inactivity.

You can’t out exercise old age but through regular exercise and a healthy lifestyle, you are certainly more likely to be able to keep up an active life.
Some important things for you to consider as you age:

Strength training

The benefits of strength training are not just proven for those who as a result remain active and injury free. There is increasing understanding that exercise, including strength training, can benefit a range of specific health conditions that are prevalent in older adults such as arthritis, and Parkinson’s disease.

There are limitations for some of the more sedentary older population, and those with specific issues which make some exercises higher risk, but for adults with a level of mobility (and medical approval), the benefits far outweigh the risks. Current guidelines from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends from between 2 strength training sessions, to a maximum of 4 sessions of 20- 45 minute duration per week. A registered exercise professional can provide appropriate advice and guidance.

Keeping disease away

Maintaining healthy weight, exercising moderately, and regularly eating a well-balanced diet will help with preventing high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity in the short term, and in the long term reduce your dementia risk. Just 30 minutes a day, five days a week is all that’s needed to ward of a range of lifestyle diseases and conditions, and is the minimum level recommended to reduce dementia risk.

When we think of exercise we should also include mental activity as well as physical. By learning new skills, and also completing mentally challenging activities can help keep you alert.

Social contact is one of the benefits of group exercise. Whether it’s walking with company, joining a class, or heading to an exercise facility, getting amongst like-minded people while getting active is a fantastic way to keep socially active and healthy.

Pelvic Floor

After many years of people simply accepting incontinence into old age, there is more understanding that pelvic floor health is something that can be managed, both in younger years and older adulthood.
Bladder weakness and continence issues are not the most common health topics talked about, and can cause embarrassment for sufferers, despite being common in ageing. The good news is that with the right advice and education, pelvic floor weakness can be managed or even better, prevented.

While you can’t out-wit ageing, you can certainly manage many of the symptoms through exercise, good nutrition, and a focus on your mental health and wellbeing.


The Importance of Exercise for Men’s Health

New Zealand men live on average four years less than women, with Maori and Pacific men having even shorter expected life spans, with a 7 year shorter expectancy over non Maori.

The major causes of death in NZ are chronic diseases, regardless of gender or ethnicity, with the leading cause of death for both Maori and non Maori men being heart disease.

Many deaths from lifestyle diseases which target men could be prevented by early detection, and healthy lifestyle choices such as regular exercise and healthy food choices. As an example, while most cases of prostate cancer occur in men aged over 65, and most bowel cancer occurs in people over 50, prevention based lifestyle habits need to be in place well before this age.

Our advice for men’s health and wellness is health doesn’t have to be complicated or overly strenuous. While many choose to take the bull by the horns and attack a good physical challenge, there are plenty of benefits both long and short term, from a moderate approach with small, sustainable changes.

As middle age approaches, many men find taking time out to exercise lowers in priority, and work commitments and family obligations increase to take over any spare time.

It’s easy to get started into physical activity and wellness with these recommendations:

  1. Maintain a healthy body weight. Obesity contributes to a range of preventable health conditions so maintaining a healthy body weight can add years to your life.
  2. Move your body – be physically active for at least 30 minutes on most days or every day. Carrying a few extra kilos need not be an issue if all the health markers like oxygen uptake, lung efficiency, heart rate and blood pressure are good. A regular exercise programme will contribute to your overall physical and mental wellbeing.
  3. Eat for health – choose a varied diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables and limit your intake of red meat.
  4. Have a regular health checkup and PSA blood check from age 40 – and a DRE prostate check from age 50; or age 40 if you have a family history of cancer.

So take up the challenge now, and head to your doctor for a checkup and get moving. Just as you see your GP to get a checkup of your medical health, it’s worth going to see a registered exercise professional to get a checkup of your physical wellness. To find a local exercise facility or registered trainer in your area, head to

REPs is the independent verification that an exercise professional is suitably qualified and experienced to give exercise advice. So by working with a registered exercise professional, you know you are getting the best and safest exercise and wellness advice.


Contact details for further information about the exercise industry:

Stroke Central Region, read more about the World Stroke Day campaign, Don’t Be The One here

NZ Register of Exercise Professionals, Registrar Stephen Gacsal
Email: [email protected] telephone: 0800 55 44 99 website:

NZ Register of Exercise Professionals (REPs) – Independent not for profit quality mark of exercise professionals and facilities. Using REPs Registered Exercise Professionals is the “warrant of fitness check” that exercise professionals and facilities meet New Zealand and internationally benchmarked standards to deliver safe exercise advice and instruction. REPs is affiliated globally to other national exercise professional registers representing over 210,000 exercise professionals through the International Confederation of Registers for Exercise Professionals (ICREPs) –

Exercise Association of New Zealand, Chief Executive Richard Beddie
Email: [email protected], telephone: 0800 66 88 11 website:

Exercise Association of New Zealand – Not for profit exercise industry representative organisation. Its mission is to proactively support a sustainable exercise and fitness industry in New Zealand by growing participation in structured exercise through advocacy, information and industry standards.